Sept. 8, 2003
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – After opening the season with five consecutive road matches, the 15th-ranked University of Notre Dame volleyball team (4-1) opens its home schedule on Tuesday against undefeated Valparaiso (8-0) at 7 p.m. (EST). The Irish will play each of their next seven contests in the Joyce Center, including five in an eight-day stretch beginning Tuesday.
LIVE STATS FOR IRISH HOME MATCHES: Fans and media unable to attend Notre Dame home matches can follow the action via live statistics on the official Irish athletic website. Live stats can be accessed at http://und.ocsn.com/livestats/w-volley, which will be available as soon as the match begins. Be advised, however, that statistics displayed are not official until the match is completed. For other ways to follow the Irish, see “Keeping Up With ND Volleyball” on page 6.
SNAPSHOT OF THE IRISH: Notre Dame’s women’s volleyball program has experienced a wealth of success since the arrival of head coach Debbie Brown in 1991. In her 12+ seasons, Brown has guided Notre Dame to a winning record every year, compiling a 304-103 (.746) mark. The Irish have earned 11 consecutive berths to the NCAA Championship, including three trips to the round of 16 (1994, ’95, and ’97) and a ’93 quarterfinal finish. Since joining the BIG EAST Conference in ’95, Notre Dame has dominated the league, winning seven regular-season and seven tournament titles in eight years. Overall, the Irish are 87-4 in regular-season BIG EAST play and 16-1 in conference tournament action. Notre Dame is 49-0 in BIG EAST matches in the Joyce Center.
The 2003 Irish team returns 12 monogram winners and six starters from last year’s squad that was 24-8 and earned the No. 16 seed in the NCAA Championship, playing host to first- and second-round play. The Irish also finished second in the nation in blocks per game (3.66) with all the players responsible for that number returning to the fold.
This year’s squad features a new 6-2 rotation, with senior S Kristen Kinder (the ’01 BIG EAST Setter of the Year) and sophomore S Kelly Burrell combining to orchestrate the attack. On the right side, junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis, the ’02 BIG EAST Championship Most Outstanding Player and a preseason all-conference selection, leads the Irish in kills after doing the same a year ago. Senior OPP Katie Neff also returns for her second year as a major contributor. The middle is patrolled by a pair of sophomores named Lauren. MB Lauren Kelbley, the ’02 BIG EAST and AVCA Northeast Region Rookie of the Year and last week’s league player of the week, and MB Lauren Brewster, who set the Notre Dame record for block assists (161) last year, return for the Irish after stepping in immediately as freshman starters. On the left side, OH Jessica Kinder, twin sister of Kristen, and OH Meg Henican provide a great deal of punch. Kinder’s jump serve is a potent weapon, while Henican occasionally sees time at libero due to her outstanding defensive skills. L Danielle Herndon, the lone freshman on the Irish, is the starting libero.
LAST TIME ON THE COURT: Notre Dame continued its winning ways last weekend by capturing the championship of the Longhorn Classic in Austin, Texas. The Irish dropped the first two games of the weekend, falling behind against Houston, before winning six in a row for a five-game win over the Cougars and a sweep of host and perennial power Texas.
In the Houston match, the Irish were led by eventual tournament MVP sophomore MB Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.), who had 22 kills on .462 hitting to go with eight blocks. Junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.), an all-tournament selection along with Kelbley, had 13 kills and just two errors, while sophomore MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) hit 13 kills on .476 hitting after sitting out the first two games with the flu. Senior OPP Katie Neff (St. Louis, Mo./Cor Jesu Academy) was in on a seven blocks, matching her career high.
Against Texas, Loomis led the way with 16 kills with a .400 attack percentage and five blocks. Kelbley again hit well, notching eight kills on .412 hitting to go with six blocks. Brewster had 11 kills and matched her career high with six digs, while sophomore S Kelly Burrell (Phoenix, Ariz./Xavier Preparatory School) became the first Irish player to turn in a double-double this season, with 20 assists and a career-high 12 digs.
On the weekend, Notre Dame held its opponents to a .164 hitting percentage while racking up an average margin of victory of 6.67 points in the games won by the Irish.
IRISH GAIN HIGHEST RANKING SINCE 1996: After claiming the championship of the Longhorn Classic over the weekend, Notre Dame jumped six spots to 15th in this week’s USA Today/AVCA Division I Coaches Top 25, released Monday. The ranking marks the highest for the Irish since Sept. 30, 1996, when they were 12th.
Four ’03 Irish opponents are listed in this week’s top 25, including three in the top 10. Stanford (Nov. 29, away) leads the way at fourth, while Northern Iowa (Nov. 11, away) is sixth, Pepperdine (L, 1-3) is eighth, and Arizona (W, 3-1) is 14th. North Carolina (Oct. 21, away), Utah (Sept. 13, home), Miami (Nov. 9, home), and Eastern Washington (W, 3-1) received votes, but were not in the top 25.
LOOMIS, KELBLEY FIRST TWO BIG EAST PLAYERS OF WEEK: Sophomore MB Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) was named a BIG EAST Co-Player of the Week Sept. 8 after her tournament-MVP performance in the Longhorn Classic. Kelbley followed teammate OPP/OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.), who was named the first conference player of the week of the season on Sept. 1.
In the Longhorn Classic, Kelbley slammed 30 kills, while making just five errors for a .446 attack percentage. In addition, she was in on a team-high 14 blocks. Against Houston, Kelbley registered a career-high 22 kills on .462 hitting to go along with eight blocks in helping the Irish to a come-from-behind 3-2 victory. She hit .412 vs. host Texas, while notching eight kills (with only one error) and six blocks.
Loomis led the Irish with 42 kills and 14 blocks in the opening weekend of play, while posting a .365 hitting percentage. Against #10 Arizona, she had 14 kills and only two errors for a .522 attack percentage. In the Eastern Washington match, she hit .412, registering 18 kills. Overall, she was responsible for 51 points.
The two-week stretch marked the first time since Nov. 5 & 12 of 2001 that Notre Dame grabbed the BIG EAST Player of the Week award in consecutive weeks, with Kristy Kreher and Kristen Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) earning shares of the award in back-to-back weeks. Since then, only one other school has accomplished the feat, with Pittsburgh’s Megan Miller copping player-of-the-week honors in consecutive weeks a year ago (Sept. 23 & 30).
ALL-TOURNAMENT TWOSOME: Irish junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) and sophomore MB Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) have made a habit of earning all-tournament honors this season. The pair was named to the Four Points Sheraton Classic all-tournament team in the opening weekend, helping Notre Dame to a 2-1 record highlighted by an upset of #10 Arizona. In the second weekend, Loomis and Kelbley were named to the Longhorn Classic all-tournament team, with the latter being named the event’s MVP.
In the first weekend, Loomis had 42 kills on .365 hitting and was in on 14 blocks. Kelbley slammed 39 kills on a .360 attack percentage. In the most recent tournament, Loomis had 29 kills with a .368 hitting percentage, while Kelbley hit 30 on .446 hitting to go along with 14 blocks.
… THE HARDER THEY FALL: Notre Dame’s season-opening 3-1 victory over #10 Arizona in the Four Points Sheraton Classic gave the Irish a top-10 upset in each of the last two seasons. On September 14, 2002, Notre Dame outlasted 10th-ranked Pepperdine in the championship match of the Golden Dome Invitational in the Joyce Center. The win over the Wildcats was the eighth in the program’s history over a top-10 opponent.
HAIL TO THE CHAMPIONS: Notre Dame’s championship in the Longhorn Classic marked the fourth consecutive season the Irish have come away with at least one in-season tournament title, but was the first for Notre Dame outside the Joyce Center since the 2000 Lady Seminole Classic. The Irish won the Shamrock Invitational in each of the last three seasons and also were victorious in the ’02 Golden Dome Invitational
START ME UP WITH SOME HOME COOKIN’: Notre Dame will try to continue its history of success in home openers. For 13 consecutive seasons, the Irish have won their first home match, including all 12 years in the Debbie Brown era. The last time Notre Dame lost its home opener was 1989, when Western Michigan gained a five-game triumph in the Notre Dame Invitational. Overall, the Irish are 18-5 in home openers.
IRISH AMONG THE BIG EAST LEADERS: A number of Irish players are among the BIG EAST Conference statistical leaders through two weeks of play. Sophomore MB Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) leads the league in hitting percentage with a .394 mark. She also ranks among the leaders in blocks (5th, 1.30) and points (8th, 4.50). Junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) is 10th in both hitting percentage (.366) and blocks (1.05), while sophomore MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) is eighth in hitting at .377.
In the team statistics, Notre Dame is near the top in both hitting percentage and blocks. The Irish are second in the latter at 2.70 per game after finishing second in the nation in the category in 2002. In attack percentage, Notre Dme is third at .252. The Irish are holding their opponents to .182 hitting, good enough for fifth-best in the conference.
HOME COOKIN’: Notre Dame enters the 2003 season holding a number of impressive home winning streaks. In regular-season action in the Joyce Center, the Irish have won 33 matches in a row, dating back to a 3-0 loss to #7 Colorado State on Sept. 23, 2000. Since joining the BIG EAST Conference in 1995, Notre Dame has never lost at home to a league opponent, posting a 49-0 record.
COMING ALL THE WAY BACK: Notre Dame’s victory against Houston marked the first time the Irish lost the first two games before rallying for a win since Sept. 2, 2000. On that date, Notre Dame lost the opening games (15-5, 15-10) to #15 BYU before coming back with a trio of 15-10 game victories to pull the upset in the Joyce Center. It had been since Nov. 14, 1999 since the Irish overcame a 2-0 deficit for victory away from home. Georgetown took the first two games (15-1, 15-11) before Notre Dame ran off wins of 15-7, 15-6, and 17-15 to preserve an undefeated conference record in the regular-season finale.
MARATHON GAMES: After having never scored more than 35 points in a game prior to this season, the Irish accomplished that feat twice in just over a week. On Aug. 30, Notre Dame outlasted Eastern Washington 37-35 in the opening game of a 3-1 victory, setting an Irish record for points in a game. Then, on Sept. 6, Notre Dame edged Texas 36-34 in the second game of a 3-0 win. The previous Irish record for points in a game was 35, in a 37-35 second-game loss to Virginia Tech on Nov. 17, 2002.
RARE WINS: In the Longhorn Classic, Notre Dame gained victories over a pair of teams that had previously been very successful against the Irish. Prior to this year, Houston had won four of five meetings with Notre Dame, while Texas was 7-1 vs. the Irish. Debbie Brown, however, has had more luck against the Cougars, now boasting a 4-1 mark against them as a head coach.
GET OUT THE BROOM: Notre Dame’s 3-0 victory against Texas in the championship match of the Longhorn Classic marked the first straight-game win for the Irish in 11 matches, dating back to last season. The previous three-game Notre Dame victory was at Syracuse on Nov. 9, 2002
HIGH AS A KITE: A number of Irish players have registered career highs already this season. Some of the more notable performances are highlighted below.
Sophomore MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) turned in three career bests against #5 Pepperdine on Aug. 30, with 17 kills on 29 attempts for a .483 attack percentage (her best in a four-game match). Brewster also matched her career-high of six digs against Texas and set a new best in hitting percentage in a five-game match with a .476 mark vs. Houston.
Sophomore MB Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) set career-high marks in kills twice already this season, most recently with 22 vs. Houston. She also had a career-high 39 attacks against the Cougars.
Senior OH Jessica Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) set a pair of personal bests against Houston, dishing out 10 assists and hitting .368, her best career mark in a five-game match.
In addition, sophomore S Kelly Burrell (Phoenix, Ariz./Xavier Preparatory School) had a career-best 12 digs vs. Texas and senior OPP Katie Neff (St. Louis, Mo./Cor Jesu Academy) matched her best performance with seven blocks in the Houston match.
START ME UP: By defeating Arizona, Notre Dame stayed perfect in season openers in the 13-year tenure of head coach Debbie Brown. Overall, Brown is 18-1 in season openers, including 5-1 at Arizona State, while the Irish are 19-5 all-time.
This season marked just the third time in the Brown era that Notre Dame opened on the road and the first time since 1990 the Irish opened outside the state of Indiana.
The season opener also was the first time Notre Dame played a ranked opponent in the first match of the season. The win was the first-ever for Notre Dame over a nationally-ranked foe in the month of August. Overall, the Irish are 12-3 all-time in August.
IRISH vs. CRUSADERS: Valparaiso comes to the Joyce Center riding the best start in Mid-Continent Conference history. The Crusaders have won each of their first eight matches, dropping just three games along the way. Valparaiso, which has won tournament titles in the Titan and Popcorn Classics, has yet to face a ranked opponent. Its victories were against Bucknell, Cal-State Fullerton, Nevada, Fordham, UC Riverside, Cleveland State, East Tennessee State, and Indiana State.
In 2002, the Crusaders were 20-10 (9-3 Mid-Continent) and tied for second in the Mid-Continent Conference. Valparaiso returned 11 letterwinners, including all six starters, from that squad, highlighted by first-team all-conference selection S Cyndi Norman. She was named the Mid-Con Offensive Player of the Week after helping the Crusaders to the title in their own Popcorn Classic last weekend. Norman’s favorite offensive weapons are senior OH Michelle Robinson and sophomore RS Lauren Moulton. Robinson leads the team in kills (90/3.91), while senior MB Sarah Schmalz is the Crusader’s most accurate hitter, at .373. Schmalz was the MVP of the Popcorn Classic. Defensively, junior L Sara Silcox is tops in digs (106/4.24), while sophomore MB Liz Mikos, who was the Titan Classic MVP, leads the team in blocks (36/1.57). Senior OH Marion Hansen has been valuable both offensively (67/3.19 kills & 11/0.52 aces) and defensively (73/3.48 digs). The Crusaders have held their opponents to a .112 hitting percentage.
Head coach Carin Avery is in her second season leading Valparaiso and has an 83-34 (.709) overall record in three-plus years as a head coach.
The Irish and Crusaders will renew one of the oldest rivalries in the history of their two programs, meeting for the 20th time. No other team has faced Notre Dame as many times (though Pittsburgh will play the Irish for the 20th time later this season), and the Irish have more victories against Valparaiso than any other opponent. In all, Notre Dame has won 17 of the previous 19 meetings, including 17 in a row. The second-ever Irish varsity match was a 2-0 loss to the Crusaders in 1980. Valparaiso duplicated the feat in the Indiana Division II State Tournament later that same season, but the Irish have captured every meeting since then. The teams rekindled the series in 1998 and will be playing for the sixth consecutive season. During the current Irish winning streak, Valparaiso has managed to win just three games and none in the last nine meetings — a 28-game run dating back to 1987. The Irish are 7-0 vs. Valpo in the Joyce Center.
A year ago, Notre Dame won in straight games (30-22, 30-24, 30-18) at Valparaiso, with S Kristen Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) leading the way with 32 assists, 11 digs, and six kills on .750 hitting. In addition, OPP/OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) had 11 kills and OPP Katie Neff (St. Louis, Mo./Cor Jesu Academy) had seven on .462 hitting, while Janie Alderete led the defense with 12 digs. Valpo hit just .070, with Hansen leading the way with nine kills and 12 digs. Silcox also had a dozen digs, while Norman had a double-double (27 assists, 10 digs).
LOCAL PRODUCTS RETURN HOME: Valparaiso features three players originally from Indiana, highlighted by a pair of Penn High School graduates: junior Wakarusa native L Lindsey Moore and freshman MB Jessie Fox of Granger. Moore is a regular in the Crusader lineup, collecting 53 (1.96) digs while playing in every game this season. Fox has seen action in eight games, notching 13 kills.
HEAD COACH Debbie Brown: Irish head coach Debbie Brown is in her 13th season at the helm of the Notre Dame program. She has led the Irish to a 304-103 (.746) mark, while holding a 421-186 (.693) overall record. Brown’s Notre Dame teams have earned 11 consecutive NCAA tournament berths, advancing to the regional finals in 1993 and the regionals in ’94, ’95, and ’97. An eight-time conference coach of the year (4 MCC, 3 BIG EAST, 1 Pac-10), she has coached four Irish players to All-America honors, while 20 have gained all-BIG EAST mention since 1995. The Irish also have claimed 11 regular-season conference titles (4 Midwestern Collegiate, 7 BIG EAST) and 11 league tournament crowns (4 MCC, 7 BIG EAST). The captain of the 1980 U.S. Olympic volleyball team after winning a pair of national championships and earning All-America honors twice playing at USC, Brown graduated from Arizona State in 1982 and coached her alma mater from 1983-88, helping the Sun Devils to five NCAA tournaments.
PRESEASON BIG EAST FAVORITES: Once again Notre Dame is the favorite in the BIG EAST Conference. The Irish, who have captured seven regular-season and seven tournament crowns in their eight years in the league, garnered nine first-place votes and were chosen as the favorite in the preseason volleyball poll of conference head coaches. Miami gained four first-place votes and was picked second with 136 points. The teams will meet in the Joyce Center on November 9 in a match televised by College Sports Television (CSTV) in its Sunday Night Spike national match-of-the-week package.
Two Irish players, junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) and sophomore middle blocker Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.), were selected to the preseason all-BIG EAST team. Loomis was the Most Outstanding Player in the ’02 BIG EAST Championship, while Kelbley was the conference rookie of the year.
TALL TEAM: Only six teams in the nation have a taller average height than Notre Dame’s ’03 squad. The 14 Irish players have an average height of 6-0, which is bettered only by Illinois, Pacific, Pepperdine, Saint Louis, USC, and Texas. In addition, only eight players in Division I are taller than senior OPP Katie Neff’s (St. Louis, Mo./Cor Jesu Academy) 6-4 frame.
AMAZING ACADEMICS: For the second year in a row, Notre Dame earned an American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Team Academic Award. The Irish, which had a team grade-point average of 3.348 during the 2002-03 year, were one of just four Division I teams to earn the Team Academic Award and also win at least one match in the ’02 NCAA Championship. The award honors teams that display excellence in the classroom by maintaining at least a 3.30 cumulative team GPA. Other than the Irish, only Kansas State, Nebraska, and Northern Iowa gained the Team Academic Award and advanced at least to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Leading the way academically for the Irish were a trio of veterans. Senior Kim Fletcher (St. Louis, Mo./Nerinx Hall H.S.) earned a 4.000 GPA in both semesters of the most recent academic year, while classmate Kristen Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) duplicated the feat in the fall and ’03 graduate Keara Coughlin posted a perfect GPA in her final semester. As a team, the Irish had a 3.438 GPA in the spring, the second-highest among Notre Dame’s 26 varsity squads.
ND-MIAMI MATCH TO BE ON NATIONAL TV: When the two top teams in the BIG EAST Conference meet on Nov. 9 in the Joyce Center, a national television audience will watch. The showdown between Notre Dame and Miami will be part of Sunday Night Spike, a presentation of College Sports Television (CSTV) and the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA), which will feature 11 matches of the week to be broadcast on Sunday evenings throughout the season. The Irish topped the Hurricanes in the final of the BIG EAST Championship a year ago, and the teams are picked to be at the top of the league again in 2003.
IRISH TO FACE DIFFICULT SLATE: Nine teams earning berths to last year’s NCAA Championship — including five earning top-12 seeds — highlight the 15-match non-conference schedule for Notre Dame this fall. In all, 10 NCAA squads from a year ago will take on the Irish this season. In addition to three qualifiers completing the field of the Sept. 12-14 Shamrock Invitational (Utah, South Carolina, and Indiana), Miami, which reached the final 16 in ’02, will play in the Joyce Center on Nov. 9. Notre Dame will hit the road to face national runner-up Stanford (Nov. 29), quarterfinalists Arizona (W, 3-1) and Pepperdine (L, 3-1), round of 16 participants Northern Iowa (Nov. 11) and North Carolina (Oct. 21), as well as Texas (Sept. 6), which lost in the second round.
AKERS ON RUNNER’S WORLD COVER: Former Notre Dame volleyball standout and current Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP) tour player Angie Akers was featured on the cover of the August edition of Runner’s World magazine. Akers, who graduated in 1998 as Angie Harris before marrying former Irish football player Jeremy Akers, had been a serious distance runner prior to joining the AVP last year.
The Fort Wayne, Ind. native and 1994 graduate of Bishop Luers High School was named the AVP Rookie of the Year in 2002 and is currently ranked as the No. 9 team on the tour, along with partner Sarah Straton. After leaving Notre Dame, Akers was an avid runner for three years, finishing the Boston Marathon with a time of 3 hours and 23 minutes. She then moved to Long Beach, Calif. to pursue a career in beach volleyball.
KEEPING UP WITH ND VOLLEYBALL: For the fastest results of Notre Dame volleyball matches, call the Notre Dame Sports Hotline at (574) 631-3000 and choose #5 and #1. The hotline provides schedules and result information for varsity sports and serves as a supplement to the match recaps and weekly releases provided on the official athletic website at www.und.com. The hotline is the first medium updated with results of each Notre Dame volleyball match.
Once again, www.und.com will be the best place for in-depth coverage of Irish volleyball. Live scoring of all home matches, as well as live internet broadcasts of eight contests supplement the regular match previews and recaps. All three Shamrock Invitational matches (Sept. 12-14), as well as both BIG EAST Championship contests (Nov. 22-23) and the conference tilts with Georgetown (Sept. 28), Virginia Tech (Nov. 7), and Miami (Nov. 9) will feature live broadcasts, with former Bethel College volleyball coach Lorne Oke.
In addition, media members and fans may be added to the sports information e-mail release list by contacting sports information assistant Bo Rottenborn at Rottenborn.firstname.lastname@example.org. All requests for story ideas, interview access, match credentials, and further information on Irish volleyball should similarly be directed to Rottenborn. Credential and interview requests should be made at least 24 hours in advance.