Oct. 12, 2003
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The 15th-ranked University of Notre Dame volleyball team (14-2, 6-0) used a now-familiar combination of sizzling hitting and wall-like net play to win its seventh match in a row 30-13, 30-18, 30-22 Sunday afternoon against Rutgers (8-11, 2-3). The Irish hit better than .350 for the fourth time in the last five matches and had 15 blocks to take over the national lead in the category.
Senior S Kristen Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) continued her outstanding setting, leading her offense to 51 kills and 14 errors on 105 attempts for a .352 hitting percentage. She accounted for assists on 39 of the kills, while notching two more on tips. Kinder’s offense, which has hit .318 or better in each of the last seven games, has been outstanding of late, hitting .393 (106 kills, 25 errors, 206 attempts) in two matches over the weekend. After not hitting better than .324 in an any of the first 11 matches of the season, the Irish have hit .352+ four times in the last five.
Since taking over the role as full-time setter in a 5-1 rotation, Kinder has helped the Irish to a .323 attack percentage in six matches, with 17.25 kills and 15.50 assists per game. In the first 10 matches of the season, Notre Dame used a 6-2 offense, hitting .231 with 15.02 kills and 13.23 assists per game.
Sophomore MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) remained the hottest offensive weapon for the Irish, finishing with 16 kills on .560 hitting. Over the last three matches, she has 46 kills (4.60 per game) and just three errors on 71 attempts, for a .606 attack percentage. Heading into that stretch, her career-best hitting match was .556 (vs. Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 8/30/02), but she has posted three consecutive matches hitting better than .560. Brewster, who led all players with 20.5 points, is hitting .462 in BIG EAST matches (80 kills, 13 errors, 145 attempts) with 4.21 kills per game.
Combining with Brewster to make the middle a dominating force for Notre Dame is another sophomore, MB Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.). She had 10 kills and just one error on 19 swings vs. Rutgers for a .474 attack percentage. Over the weekend, Kelbley had 21 kills and only three errors on 36 attack attempts for a .500 hitting mark. In league matches, she is hitting .413 (73 kills, 14 errors, 143 attempts) while getting 3.65 kills per game.
Senior OH Jessica Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) also hit well, with six kills and one error on 10 tries, for .500 hitting. Junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) had seven kills, snapping her school-record streak of 21 consecutive matches with 10 or more kills. It was the first time since November 9, 2002, that Loomis failed to hit double digits.
Notre Dame had 15 blocks on Sunday, compared to just two for Rutgers. The Irish were led by Kelbley, who was in on seven, and Brewster, who took part in six. Notre Dame now has 213 blocks on the season for an average of 3.55 per game, the best mark among Division I teams. Stanford, which was the national leader, had just eight blocks in a five-game loss to California on Friday to drop its average to 3.38.
Brewster has been in on 92 blocks this season, an average of 1.67 per game. She entered the week sixth in the nation in the individual leaders.
The Irish floor game was led by sophomore L/OH Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.), who had 13 digs. She has led Notre Dame in digs 11 times this season and has had a dozen or more in 10 of the last 11 matches.
The Irish never trailed on Sunday and were tied only at 0-0 to begin each game. Notre Dame took a 12-6 lead in game one before winning seven straight points to extend it to 19-6 prior to going on to a 17-point victory, its most lopsided game win since October 25 of last year — a game-four victory over Pittsburgh by the same score. Only twice since the rally-scoring format was adopted in 2001 have the Irish held teams to fewer than 13 points in a game (30-12 vs. Valparaiso & 30-8 vs. St. John’s, both in ’01).
Notre Dame again took control early in the second game, going up 17-8 en route to a 12-point triumph. Brewster had six kills on nine swings in the game.
The Irish won 11 of the first 14 points in the final game, but then saw Rutgers have more success, cutting the lead to four on two occasions before the end of the match. Notre Dame had six blocks in the game and Brewster had six kills.
The Irish now have won 18 of their last 19 games and have posted 3-0 wins in four of the last five matches and six times overall this season.
The seven wins in a row for the Irish are the most for Notre Dame since a seven-match winning streak from September 21-October 13 of last year.
Sunday’s 37-point margin of victory matched the third-largest margin for Notre Dame since the inception of rally scoring. It was the most lopsided Irish win since September 14, 2002, when the Irish beat Loyola College by a school-record 44 points (30-16, 30-16, 30-14).
The Irish improved to 11-0 all-time against Rutgers, having won 33 of 34 games played in the series.
Notre Dame is the only team with a 6-0 BIG EAST record and one of just three unbeaten squads. Miami and Pittsburgh are both 5-0. The Hurricanes and Panthers are two of the final three conference opponents for the Irish. Notre Dame and Miami will play on November 9 at 6 p.m. (EST) in the Joyce Center, a match televised nationally by College Sports Television. The Irish and Pittsburgh will play on November 16 at 2 p.m. (EDT) in Pittsburgh in the regular-season finale. The Panthers and Hurricanes meet on November 2 in Coral Gables, Fla.
The Irish will have eight days off before a three-match east-coast road swing, which features matches at defending Atlantic Coast Conference champion North Carolina (Tuesday, Oct. 21 at 7 p.m.), Rhode Island (Thursday, Oct. 23 at 7 p.m.), and Boston College (Friday, Oct. 24 at 7:30 p.m.). Notre Dame will return home on Wednesday, October 29 vs Illinois State at 7 p.m. (EST).