Sept. 13, 2003
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The 15th-ranked University of Notre Dame volleyball team (7-1) overcame a cold-hitting night to outlast Utah (5-3) in five games (34-32, 16-30, 30-26, 26-30, 15-12) Saturday evening in the Shamrock Invitational. The Irish will try to win the tournament championship for the fourth consecutive season when they take on South Carolina on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. (EST) in the Joyce Center.
After losing the first two points in the decisive game, the Irish built an 11-4 lead. Following a Utah rally, Notre Dame finally converted on its third match point, getting a kill from sophomore MB Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) to improve to 2-0 this season in five-game contests.
Kelbley led the Irish in kills with 13, but no Notre Dame player hit over .265 for the match. Defensively, senior co-captain OH Jessica Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) had 23 digs just five days after setting a school record for digs in a three-game match (28). Meanwhile, sophomore MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) and senior OPP Katie Neff (St. Louis, Mo./Cor Jesu Academy) both posted career highs in blocks, with 13 and nine, respectively.
The teams traded points consistently in the opening game, with neither side taking more than a three-point advantage after Notre Dame started by winning five of the first six points. Utah was on the verge of winning the game, leading 29-26, but a kill by Kelbley and a pair of Ute attack errors saved three game points and evened the score. After saving two more game points, the Irish won three consecutive tallies after trailing 32-31, getting a kill from sophomore OH Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.) before Brewster delivered a solo block and then combined with junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) for another, on match point. The Irish are 4-0 this season in games in which 59 or more points are played.
Utah’s pinpoint accuracy was the story of the second game. The Utes jumped out to a 15-3 lead en route to a 14-point victory, while hitting .432 on the game. Utah had 18 kills and only two errors, including eight kills on .538 hitting from Shelly Sommerfeldt and five on .625 hitting from Lyndsey Henderson. In contrast, the Irish had eight kills and eight errors on 36 attempts (.000 attack percentage).
The Utes again jumped out early in the third game, taking an initial 8-3 lead. But the Irish fought back and the game was close until Notre Dame, trailing 25-23, won seven of the final eight points to take the victory. In that spurt, Henican had a pair of kills, while Brewster was in on three blocks.
In game four, Utah held a small cushion for much of the time before taking a 29-24 lead and then converting on its third game point to send the match to a decisive frame.
Loomis finished with 12 kills, marking the 14th consecutive match she has registered 10 or more. Henican had a season-high 11 kills, while Neff had nine, posting a team-best .261 hitting percentage.
On the night, Notre Dame hit .138, the worst performance since a 2001 NCAA tournament match vs. Michigan State.
The Irish floor game corralled 80 digs, marking the second time in three matches this week Notre Dame has had 80 or more digs. Henican and senior co-captain Kristen Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) each had 14, marking the highest on the year for the latter, while Henican also had 14 on Tuesday vs. Valparaiso. Freshman L Danielle Herndon (Plant City, Fla./Durant H.S.) had a season-high total of 13.
After never having multiple aces in 28 previous career matches, sophomore S Kelly Burrell (Phoenix, Ariz./Xavier Preparatory School) delivered a match-high three service aces on Saturday.
The Irish have won six consecutive matches since suffering their only loss of the season on Aug. 30 at #5 Pepperdine. In each of the last 13 seasons (every year under head coach Debbie Brown), Notre Dame has had at least one winning streak of five or more. The Irish had three in 2002, winning five straight in mid-September, seven in a row to end that month and begin October, and six in a row to end October and begin November.
Notre Dame improved to 25-3 in Shamrock Invitational action, winning its 12th consecutive match. The Irish were the tournament champions in six of the previous nine Shamrock Invitationals, winning titles in 1993, ’94, ’96, 2000, ’01, and ’02.