Oct. 5, 2003
STORRS, Conn. – The 17th-ranked University of Notre Dame volleyball team (12-2, 4-0) won its fifth consecutive match Sunday afternoon with a four-game (30-22, 20-30, 30-28, 30-18) triumph over Connecticut (11-7, 1-1). The Irish moved to 4-0 in BIG EAST Conference play and will return home next weekend for matches against Seton Hall (Friday at 7 p.m.) and Rutgers (Sunday at 2 p.m.).
Sophomore MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) turned in the best hitting match of her career, matching her career high with 17 kills and setting a new career best with a .596 hitting percentage. She had just one error in 27 attempts. Brewster, the conference leader in the category, also was in on eight blocks. In all, she accounted for 24 points.
The Notre Dame defense was a key to the victory. The Irish registered 88 digs as a team, with five players having 10 or more. The total was the highest for a Notre Dame team since November 14, 2001, when the Irish had 108 in five games against Illinois State. Leading the way was sophomore L Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.), who had 20 digs. It was the second-best performance of her career, following a 23-dig performance against Charleston in the opening round of last year’s NCAA Championship. Henican has had a dozen or more digs in each of the last nine matches.
Senior OH Jessica Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) had 19 digs on Sunday. She has had 13 or more digs in five of the last six matches.
Junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) set a new career high with 17 digs. After barely seeing any time in the back row in the first 10 matches of the season in Notre Dame’s 6-2 rotation, Loomis has been solid playing all the way around in the 5-1 over the last four contests. She has 41 digs in 15 games (2.73) in that span.
Also hitting double digits in digs were freshman DS Danielle Herndon (Plant City, Fla./Durant H.S.), who had 14, and senior S Kristen Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.), who finished with 10. Kinder has had eight or more digs in seven straight matches.
Notre Dame’s digging performance was even more impressive considering the Irish had a strong defensive day at the net, as well, blocking 19 Connecticut attack attempts for points before they could have the chance to be dug. The Irish came into the weekend third in the country in blocks per game at 3.33. Over the weekend, they had 29 in seven games, for an average of 4.14. Notre Dame is averaging 4.44 blocks per game over its last five matches (80 blocks, 18 games).
Other than Brewster, Notre Dame’s top presences at the net on Sunday were Jessica Kinder and sophomore MB Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.), who each were in on six blocks. Kinder’s performance was the best of her career.
Kelbley was effective offensively, as well, finishing with 15 kills and 18.5 points. Loomis had a dozen kills, while Jessica Kinder had eight. The latter has 44 kills in the last five matches, an average of 2.44 per game. She averaged 1.31 kills per game in the first nine matches of the season.
The Irish won six of the first eight points of the match and maintained an advantage throughout, winning the opening game by eight.
After turning in a .000 attack percentage in the first game (11 kills, 11 errors, 52 attempts), the Huskies heated up in game two. Holding a slim 17-16 lead, Connecticut won 13 of the next 17 points for a 10-point victory to even the match.
The Huskies held a small advantage through much of the third game before stretching it to 28-22 and putting themselves on the verge of taking a 2-1 lead in the match. But the Irish responded by winning eight conscutive points to rally for a two-point triumph. Jessica Kinder started the run with a kill and a service ace. Kelbley kept it going with three kills and a block, and senior Katie Neff (St. Louis, Mo./Cor Jesu Academy) finished the game with a solo block on game point.
Notre Dame won the first four points in quickly taking control of the fourth game. The Irish hit well in the frame, with 17 kills and just three errors for .318 hitting, and proceeded to complete a 12-point win to finish the match.
Early in the conference season, Notre Dame is the only team with a 4-0 league record and one of just three unbeaten squads. Miami and Pittsburgh are both 3-0. The Hurricanes and Panthers are two of the final three BIG EAST 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.