Dec. 3, 2003
NOTRE DAME, Ind. –
#21 Notre Dame (23-6) vs. #19 Louisville (24-5)
First Round * Friday, Dec. 5, 5:00 p.m. * Huff Hall * Champaign, IL
[No. 15 seed] #18 Illinois (24-6) vs. Murray State (24-5)
First Round * Friday, Dec. 5, 7:00 p.m. * Huff Hall * Champaign, IL
Second Round * Saturday, Dec. 6, 7:00 p.m. * Huff Hall * Champaign, IL
No. 21 IRISH SET TO BEGIN NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP RUN: The 21st-ranked University of Notre Dame volleyball team (23-6) will begin play in the 2003 NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship this weekend, taking part in one of just two subregionals to feature three of four teams carrying national rankings. The Irish, making their 12th consecutive NCAA appearance, will play #19 Louisville (24-5) on Friday at 5 p.m. (CST) in Huff Hall in Champaign, Ill. A win would send them to a second-round contest against the winner of 15th-seeded #18 Illinois and Murray State on Saturday at 7 p.m.
LIVE INTERNET AUDIO BROADCAST OF ND NCAA ACTION: Fans and media unable to attend Notre Dame’s NCAA Championship matches this weekend in Champaign, Ill. can follow the action via a live internet audio broadcast available via www.und.com. Stephen Hinkel will make the call for subscribers of College Sports Pass. For other ways to follow the Irish, see “Keeping Up With ND Volleyball” on page 11 of this release.
BRIEF HISTORY OF ND IN THE NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP: Notre Dame qualified for its first NCAA Championship appearance in 1988, defeating #20 Penn State in the Joyce Center before falling to #4 Illinois in Urbana, Ill. … this is the 12th straight season the Irish have appeared in the NCAA tournament (1992 – 2003) … the best NCAA Championship results for Notre Dame were a 1993 quarterfinals appearance and reaching the round of 16 in ’94, ’95, and ’97 … Notre Dame is 11-12 (.478) in NCAA tournament action … 10 of the Irish NCAA losses have come to current Big Ten schools, including each of the last three and five of the last six … Notre Dame is 2-10 against the current Big Ten members in the NCAAs, including seven consecutive losses, dating back to 1993 … last season, Notre Dame earned the No. 16 seed and played host to first- and second-round NCAA action, losing to Michigan State in round two.
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 (and 20+ wins in each year but one), compiling a 323-108 (.749) mark. The Irish have earned 12 consecutive berths to the NCAA Championship, including a ’93 quarterfinal finish and three trips to the round of 16 (1994, ’95, and ’97). Since joining the BIG EAST Conference in ’95, Notre Dame has dominated the league, winning eight regular-season and seven tournament titles in nine years. Overall, the Irish are 98-5 in regular-season BIG EAST play and 17-2 in conference tournament action. Notre Dame is 56-0 in BIG EAST regular-season matches in the Joyce Center and has won 72 consecutive home conference matches, dating back to 1990, including a 71-0 record in the Brown era.
The 2003 Irish team returned 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 season Notre Dame leads the nation in blocking at 3.75 per game.
After playing the first 10 matches with a 6-2 rotation, the Irish have returned to their traditional 5-1 offense. Senior S Kristen Kinder (the ’01 BIG EAST Setter of the Year), a three-time all-conference performer and a first-teamer in ’03, orchestrates the Notre Dame attack for the third consecutive season, having helped the Irish to a 69-21 (.767) record as a starter. On the right side, junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis, the ’02 BIG EAST Championship Most Outstanding Player and a second-team all-conference selection this season, leads the Irish in kills for the second straight season. She already has set two school records this year: most kills in a match without an error (24, 9/9 vs. Valparaiso) and consecutive matches with 10+ kills (21). The middle is patrolled by a pair of sophomores named Lauren who were named to the all-BIG EAST first team this season. MB Lauren Kelbley, the ’02 BIG EAST and AVCA Northeast Region Rookie of the Year, and MB Lauren Brewster, who set the Irish record for blocks assists (161) in a season in ’02, returned after stepping in immediately as freshman starters. They have combined to win five BIG EAST Player of the Week awards this season (Kelbley-two, Brewster-three), while Brewster is first in the nation in individual blocking (1.81) and tops on the team in hitting (.353). On the left side, OH Jessica Kinder, twin sister of Kristen, is one of the hardest hitters and also one of the top defensive players on the team. She set a school record for digs in a three-game match (28) on Sept. 9 vs. Valparaiso. A pair of seniors, OPP Katie Neff and OPP/OH Kim Fletcher, also have been strong presences on the front row at times. L/OH Meg Henican is averaging 4.17 digs as the starting libero after playing on the left side in the 6-2. She has 15+ digs in seven of the last eight matches. DS/L Danielle Herndon, the lone freshman on the Irish, started the season at libero, but now is a back-row sub.
LAST TIME ON THE COURT: Notre Dame (23-6) dropped its final regular-season match, a 3-0 (30-28, 30-24, 30-24) decision against #6 Stanford (23-6) Saturday afternoon in the Maples Pavilion. Notre Dame fell victim to a hot-hitting Cardinal attack that registered 61 kills on .333 hitting. Junior OH Ogonna Nnamani, a first-team All-American last season, was outstanding, finishing with 23 kills on a .409 attack percentage. Notre Dame held leads in every game, but could not convert enough late opportunities to avoid its first two-match losing streak of the season. The Irish hit well over the first two games – boasting a .297 percentage heading into the locker room – but managed just 13 kills and 10 errors in the final frame.
Sophomore OPP/MB Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.), playing for the first time in her career on the outside, led the Irish with 10 kills on 19 swings, a .368 percentage. The former middle blocker also had five digs and three blocks. Senior OPP Katie Neff (St. Louis, Mo./Cor Jesu Academy) and sophomore MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) each provided nine kills, while junior MB/OPP Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) had seven in her first career match at middle blocker, becoming the 13th player in Notre Dame history to record 1,000 career kills. Senior co-captain S Kristen Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) had five kills on nine errorless attempts, as well.
Defensively, Notre Dame was led by sophomore L/OH Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.), who had 10 digs. The Irish had 10.5 blocks, below their nation-leading average of 3.76.
The first game was close throughout, featuring 13 ties and five lead changes. The final deadlock was at 22-22, when the Cardinal sprinted to a 29-26 advantage to gain three game points. Kills from Brewster and Neff forced a Stanford timeout, but the game ended on the following point thanks to Nnamani’s ninth kill.
Notre Dame came out strong in game two, taking a 6-3 advantage prior to an 8-1 Stanford run. The Irish could not come within fewer than four points the remainder of the frame. Stanford had 25 kills and hit .372 despite six Notre Dame blocks.
The final game was tight, with Notre Dame leading 21-20 before Stanford tied the frame for the 10th time and went on a 9-2 run to secure a number of match points, setting up a six-point victory.
IRISH GAIN 12TH CONSECUTIVE NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP BERTH: Notre Dame earned its 12th consecutive berth to the NCAA Championship when the field was announced Sunday evening. The Irish will travel to Champaign, Ill. to be part of one of just two subregionals with three of the four teams ranked among the national top 25, opening play on Friday vs. #19 Louisville at 5 p.m. (CST) in Huff Hall. The other first-round match will feature host #18 Illinois, the tournament’s No. 15 overall seed, against Murray State at 7 p.m. (CST). The winners will play in second-round action on Saturday at 7 p.m. (CST).
Notre Dame, regular-season co-champions of the BIG EAST Conference, earned one of the 33 at-large bids to the NCAA tournament. Illinois also gained an at-large berth, while Murray State and Louisville took two of the 31 automatic berths.
The winner of Saturday’s second-round match will advance to Honolulu, Hawaii for regional play Dec. 12-13. The final four is slated for Dec. 18 and 20 in Dallas, Texas.
Louisville, a co-champion of Conference USA with Cincinnati, won its league tournament and stands 24-5 heading into the NCAAs. Illinois tied with Minnesota for second place in the Big Ten Conference and is 24-6. Murray State will make its first-ever appearance in the NCAA Championship, having won the Ohio Valley Conference tournament with a 24-5 record.
Seven Notre Dame opponents earned invitations to the tournament: Arizona, Northern Iowa, Pepperdine (No. 4 overall seed), Pittsburgh, Stanford, Utah (No. 5 overall seed), and Valparaiso. The Irish were 4-5 against those teams.
The 12 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances is the second-longest current streak of any Notre Dame sport, behind fencing. Overall, the Irish have earned 13 berths, reaching the quarterfinals in 1993 and the round of 16 in ’94, ’95, and ’97. Notre Dame is 11-12 in the NCAAs.
This will be the seventh time – and third since 2000 – that the Irish will travel to a Big Ten Conference court for NCAA play. Notre Dame’s first-ever NCAA Championship loss came in Urbana to Illinois in the second round of the 1988 tournament.
All-session tickets covering the first and second round matches go on sale starting Monday, Dec. 1 at 10 a.m., while single-match tickets go on sale Friday, Dec. 5 at 10 a.m. Fans can order tickets by calling the Illinois athletic ticket office at (217) 333-3470. Tickets will then be on sale at Huff Hall on Friday beginning at 4 p.m. All-session tickets are $12 for reserved (floor) seating and $10 for general admission (balcony) seating. Students can purchase an all-session general admission ticket for $6. Single-match tickets are $8 for reserved seating and $7 for general admission seating. Students can purchase a single-session general admission ticket for $5.
IRISH FALL TO 21st IN NATIONAL RANKINGS: After dropping its only contest of the week to #6 Stanford, Notre Dame fell one spot to 21st in this week’s USA Today/AVCA Division I Coaches Top 25, released Monday. The Irish are ranked 16th by Volleyball magazine, 22nd by RichKern.com, 32nd in the Ballicora Compuer Rankings, and 16th in the RKPI rankings, which are designed to emulate the NCAA’s RPI rankings.
Four ’03 Irish opponents are listed in this week’s AVCA top 25. Pepperdine (L, 1-3) leads the way at fourth, while Stanford (L, 0-3) is fifth, Northern Iowa (L, 1-3) is 16th, and Arizona (W, 3-1) is 22nd. Pittsburgh (L, 2-3 & L, 0-3) and Utah (W, 3-2) are receiving votes but not listed in the top 25.
IRISH MAINTAIN NATIONAL LEAD IN BLOCKING, BREWSTER REGAINS TOP SPOT: Notre Dame continued to hold a healthy lead nationally among Division I teams in blocking last week, while sophomore MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) moved once again into the national lead among individual blocking leaders. The Irish were averaging 3.76 blocks per game, with Cornell, the nation’s second-best team, at 3.52 and no other team above 3.24. Brewster’s average creeped up to 1.82, allowing her to pass Valparaiso’s Liz Mikos, who is at 1.79.
Over its last four matches, Notre Dame has 62 blocks for an average of 4.17 per game. Earlier in the season, the Irish had a six-match stretch averaging 4.89 blocks per game (93 blocks, 19 games). Brewster has 30 over the last four contests, an average of 2.00 per frame.
A year ago, Notre Dame finished second nationally in blocking with a school-record average of 3.66, while Brewster was fourth at 1.68.
BROWN WINS FOURTH BIG EAST COACH OF THE YEAR AWARD: Irish head coach Debbie Brown earned her fourth BIG EAST Conference Coach of the Year Award — including three in the last four years — at the annual league awards banquet held last Friday in the South Bend Marriott. Brown, who also was named the league’s top coach in 1995, 2000, and ’01, shared the distinction with Pittsburgh’s Chris Beerman. Her latest squad opened 21-2, matching the best start in the program’s history. Notre Dame has been listed as high as 12th nationally, the best Irish ranking since 1996. Her team had a 14-match winning streak, stretching nearly two months from mid-September to mid-November, the second-longest stretch in school history. Notre Dame’s regular-season conference co-championship marked its eighth title in nine years since joining the BIG EAST in 1995. The Irish lead the nation in blocking (3.76) and were the top BIG EAST team in conference play in blocking (4.21), hitting percentage (.288), and opponent hitting percentage (.134).
FOUR IRISH PLAYERS EARN ALL-CONFERENCE HONORS: Notre Dame senior co-captain S Kristen Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) and sophomores MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) and MB Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) grabbed half of the spots on the all-BIG EAST first team at the annual league awards banquet on Nov. 21 in the South Bend Marriott. Meanwhile, junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) earned second-team honors.
Kinder is an all-BIG EAST selection for the third straight season, after being named to the second team in ’01 and ’02. The 2001 BIG EAST Setter of the Year (an award no longer given), Kinder is in her third season as the starting Irish setter and her second as a team co-captain. She has helped Notre Dame to a 68-21 (.767) record since taking over as its top setter. In the Notre Dame career record book, Kinder ranks third in assists (3,617) and fourth in assist average (10.83). She joined Jaimie Lee (’97), Christy Girton (’00), and Kristy Kreher (’01) as the only three-time all-BIG EAST honorees in Irish history.
Brewster, who was honorable mention all-BIG EAST as a freshman, has established herself as one of the top middle blockers in the country this season. She leads the BIG EAST Conference and the nation in individual blocking (183/1.81), while being a key factor in Notre Dame ranking as the top blocking team in Division I (3.75). Brewster also is tops on the Irish in attack percentage (.353, 3rd in BIG EAST), points (487.5/4.82, 4th in BIG EAST), while being second in kills (356/3.52) and service aces (25/0.25).
Kelbley, the league’s rookie of the year and a second-team all-conference honoree in 2002, was one of just two players on the first team who also were preseason all-conference selections. She is second on the team in blocks (129/1.24), hitting percentage (.306), and service aces (25/0.24) and third in kills (341/3.28) and points (442.5/4.25). Kelbley ranks third in the conference in blocking and 10th in attack percentage and was fourth in hitting in league play (.340).
Loomis was a first-team selection a year ago and was named to the preseason all-conference team this season. She leads the Irish in kills (380/3.58) and is second in points (463.5/4.37). On Sunday, Loomis became the 13th Irish player to notch 1,000 career kills. She has set two Notre Dame records this season: consecutive matches with 10+ kills (21) and most kills in a match without an error (24 on Sept. 9 vs. Valparaiso).
It marked the fourth time Notre Dame placed three players on the all-BIG EAST first team, after doing so in 1995, ’97, and 2000.
In all, 32 Irish players have earned all-BIG EAST honors, including 20 on the first team, since the Irish joined the league in ’95.
BREWSTER’S BRILLIANT BLOCKING (AND HITTING): Sophomore MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) has turned into one of the top middle blockers in the country this season. Brewster currently leads the nation in individual blocking, averaging 1.81 blocks per game (183 blocks, 101 games) and is the major reason the Irish are tops among Division I teams in blocking, at 3.75 (398 blocks, 106 games).
Brewster’s season average currently ranks as the best-ever in Irish history, just ahead of Mary Kay Waller’s record of 1.79. Her block total of 183 is the third-highest for an Irish player, 23 shy of the school record (206 by Waller in ’88), while her 153 block assists are eight away from the Notre Dame record she set last season. Her career block average of 1.75 is better than Waller’s school-record mark of 1.68, while her 353 total blocks already place her eighth on the all-time list, despite having played less than half of her collegiate career. Brewster has led Notre Dame in blocks 17 times this season and has had four or more in 26 of 29 matches. She has had six or more 15 times and has hit double digits six times, including a pair of career-high 13-block matches, which marked the most for an Irish player in a match since 1993.
Brewster is a key to the Irish unit that is on pace to set the school record for block average for the second consecutive season (3.66 in ’02) after the previous mark (3.57) had stood since 1988. She also is part of the only quartet in history — Brewster, MB Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.), OPP Katie Neff (St. Louis, Mo./Cor Jesu Academy), and OPP/OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) — to register 100 blocks apiece, something the group did both last season and this year.
A first-team all-BIG EAST selection, Brewster not only leads the conference in blocking, but also hitting percentage in league matches (.403), while ranking third in the overall category (.353). She led the Irish in hitting percentage 15 times, including a stretch of seven consecutive matches in which she hit over .350 in each (10/5-10/29), as well as 12 times in the last 16 matches. Brewster has hit over .300 in 19 matches, including 13 marks over .400.
Brewster also leads the Irish in points (487.5/4.83) and is second in kills (356/3.52) and third in service aces (25/0.25). After not doing so at all a year ago, she has been the team leader in kills 13 times this season, while being tops in points on 15 occasions, registering at least nine in every contest. Brewster has seven career double-doubles, including four this season, each coming with kills and blocks. She was named the BIG EAST Player of the Week three times in October and was the Shamrock Invitational MVP.
BREWSTER’S BIG EAST BLOCKING: Sophomore MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) was in on 11 blocks, including eight in the opening game, in the BIG EAST semifinal against Miami. It matched the second-highest total ever for an Irish player in a BIG EAST Championship match, just behind Brewster’s 12-block performance in last year’s title match against Miami. Two other players — Lindsay Treadwell (1997 vs. Villanova) and Malinda Goralski (2000 vs. Connecticut) — also had 11 blocks in a BIG EAST tournament match.
HENICAN OUTDIGS THE BIG EAST’S BEST: In the two meetings between Notre Dame and Pittsburgh this season, sophomore L Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.) outperformed the top libero in the BIG EAST Conference, the Panthers’ Megan McGrane. Henican had 25 digs in the regular-season meeting and 21 in the tournament final, for a total of 46, an average of 5.75 per game. McGrane had 16 digs in Pittsburgh and 14 in the BIG EAST final, an average of 3.75 per game.
The first-ever BIG EAST Libero of the Year, McGrane is leading the conference and ranks fifth nationally with 5.34 digs per game. She became the fastest Panther ever to reach 1,000 career digs (doing so Sunday) and is the first Pittsburgh player ever to have 500 digs in a season (513 after Sunday).
After starting the season playing mostly outside hitter, Henican has been outstanding since making the move to the opposite-colored jersey on Sept. 26. Since then, she is averaging 4.17 digs per game (275 digs, 66 games), helping the Irish lead the conference in opponent hitting percentage (.134). Overall this season, she is averaging 3.79 digs per game (402/106), which ranks fourth in the conference. Against Stanford, she became just the third Irish player to post 400 digs in a season, joining Christy Peters (’94) and Jessica Fiebelkorn (’92), who each did it twice.
DYNAMIC (DIGGING) DUO: Sophomore L Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.) and senior co-captain OH Jessica Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) have combined for 746 digs this season, already establishing themselves as the fourth-best digging pair in Irish history. Their total is the most for a duo since 1993, and six more Kinder digs will mark just the third time ever Notre Dame has had a pair of players with 350+ digs in a season (also 1991 & ’92). 1994 graduate Christy Peters was half of each of the top three marks, teaming with Jessica Fiebelkorn for a school-record 883 in 1992, with Jenny Birkner for 828 in ’93, and again with Fiebelkorn for 813 in ’91.
Henican and Kinder individually carry two of the top eight season dig averages in Notre Dame history. Henican’s 3.79 (402 digs, 106 games) ranks third, while Kinder’s mark of 3.25 (344 digs, 106 games) is eighth. Against Stanford, Henican became just the third player in school history to register 400 digs in a season, joining Peters and Fiebelkorn, who did it twice each. The Irish sophomore’s career dig average of 3.11 (585 digs, 188 games) ranks second only to Peters’ 3.72, while Kinder is 11th at 2.50 (826 digs, 331 games). Henican has had 15 or more digs in seven of the last eight matches.
Henican and Kinder have been especially effective in three-game matches, posting three of the top six digging performances in school history this season. Kinder’s 28 against Valparaiso on Sept. 9 were a school record for a straight-game match, while Henican matched the third-best total with 21 against Pittsburgh in the BIG EAST final and Kinder had 20 vs. West Virginia, which ranks sixth.
OUTSTANDING OPPOSITE BLOCKERS: Senior Katie Neff (St. Louis, Calif./Cor Jesu Academy) and junior Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) have established themselves as two of the top blocking non-middle blockers in Irish history. Neff’s career block average of 1.00 (245 blocks, 244 games) and Loomis’ mark of 0.91 (277 blocks, 305 games) trail only Zanette Bennett’s (’88) average of 1.01 (434 blocks, 428 games). Loomis and Neff combined with sophomores MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) and MB Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) to be the first-ever Irish quartet to register 100 blocks apiece a season ago. The foursome has duplicated the feat this year.
DYNAMIC DEFENSE: Notre Dame’s defensive effort in the BIG EAST semifinals vs. Miami was strong all the way around, with 17 blocks (4.25 per game) and 76 digs (19.00 per game) en route to holding the Hurricanes to .144 hitting – the lowest mark for an Irish opponent in the last eight matches. The dig total was the second-highest ever for Notre Dame in a BIG EAST Championship match, trailing a 91-dig performance in 1998 vs. Connecticut. On Saturday, four Notre Dame players had 12 or more digs, led by sophomore L/OH Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.) and senior co-captain OH Jessica Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.), who each had 16. Senior co-captain S Kristen Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) had 15 and freshman DS/L Danielle Herndon (Plant City, Fla./Durant H.S.) had a dozen.
61 AND DONE: Notre Dame’s loss to Pittsburgh in the final of the BIG EAST Championship marked the first-time the Irish suffered a home loss to a conference foe since joining the league in 1995. Prior to that match, Notre Dame was 61-0 at home against BIG EAST teams, including 56-0 in regular-season play and 5-0 in conference tournament action. In regular-season league action, the Irish have won 72 consecutive home matches, dating back to 1990, including a 71-0 mark under current head coach Debbie Brown.
IRISH SUFFER RARE PAIR OF UNRANKED HOME LOSSES: Notre Dame’s losses to South Carolina on Sept. 14 in the Shamrock Invitational and to Pittsburgh on Nov. 23 in the final of the BIG EAST Championship mark the first time under head coach Debbie Brown that two unranked teams have defeated the Irish in the Joyce Center in the same season. Dating back to the second round of last year’s NCAA tournament, Notre Dame has suffered three defeats in its last 16 home matches vs. unranked opponents after going 139-3 — including 52 in a row — prior to this stretch. Since Brown took over the Irish program in 1991, Notre Dame is 152-6 (.962) against unranked teams at home.
SWEPT AWAY: Notre Dame’s 3-0 loss to Pittsburgh on Sunday was the first time the Irish did not win a game this season. The last 3-0 Irish loss came on Dec. 8, 2002, to Michigan State in the second round of the NCAA Championship.
TOUGH TIMES: After opening the season 21-2, Notre Dame has lost four of its last six matches. The last time the Irish had a trio of defeats so close together was Sept. 7-9, 2001, when they dropped consecutive contests to #7 UCLA, #1 Nebraska, and #15 Pepperdine in the US Bank/Arby’s Tournament in Lincoln, Neb. The Irish have not had a stretch of four losses in six matches since Oct. 9-21, 1998, when they lost at Connecticut and Fairfield, before winning at St. John’s and Duke and losing at #24 North Carolina nad #8 Florida.
DOUBLE JEOPARDY: Pittsburgh became the first team in the Debbie Brown era (1991-present) — and just the fourth ever — to defeat Notre Dame in regular-season and conference tournament play in the same season. The Panthers topped the Irish 3-2 on Nov. 16 in Pittsburgh, Pa. in a regular-season match before sweeping Notre Dame on Nov. 23 in the final of the BIG EAST Championship. The last team to do so was Butler, which topped the Irish in 1990 in both a regular-season match and the Midwestern Collegiate Conference Championship. The Bulldogs also pulled the trick in 1985, beating Notre Dame in the North Star Conference tournament, while Saint Louis did the same two years previous.
Pittsburgh was just the seventh team ever — and second in the Brown era — to beat Notre Dame in regular-season and postseason action in the same season. The only other team to accomplish the feat in the last 13 years was Wisconsin, which topped the Irish 3-1 in the Shamrock Invitational in 1997 before eliminating Notre Dame from the NCAA regional semifinals by the same score. Notre Dame lost to the same team in regular-season and postseason action five times from 1980-90. Valparaiso won 2-0 in the second-ever varsity volleyball match for the Irish, in 1980, prior to defeating Notre Dame in the Indiana Division II State Tournament later that season. The following year, St. Francis (Ind.) topped the Irish twice in the regular season — once in its tournament and once in a scheduled match — before beating Notre Dame in the Division II state tournament.
NOTRE DAME WINNING STREAK SNAPPED AT 14: The Nov. 11 loss at Northern Iowa snapped a 14-match winning streak for the Irish, which dated back to a 3-1 loss at home against South Carolina on Sept. 14. The winning streak was the second-longest in the 24-year history of Notre Dame varsity volleyball and the longest under 13-year head coach Debbie Brown. The longest winning streak in school history was 17 matches in 1986. Over the streak, Notre Dame won 42 of 48 games, surrendering one each to Purdue, Villanova, Connecticut, and North Carolina, as well as two to Virginia Tech.
In the Brown era, the Irish have had 29 different winning streaks of five matches or more, winning five in a row seven times, six straight four times, seven in a row three times, eight straight four times, nine in a row six times, 10 straight once, 11 in a row twice, and 12 straight once, and 14 in a row once.
Notre Dame also was just two shy of a pair of other school records before losing to UNI. The Irish had won eight in a row away from home and six straight on opponents’ home courts.
CLASS OF THE CONFERENCE: Since Notre Dame joined the BIG EAST Conference in 1995, the Irish have experienced incredible success in league play. Overall, Notre Dame is 98-5 in conference regular-season matches and 17-2 in the BIG EAST Championship. In eight seasons, the Irish have won eight regular-season titles and seven tournament titles. Notre Dame is 56-0 at home in BIG EAST regular-season matches.
This season, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh tied for the regular-season crown with identical 11-1 records, while the Panthers topped the Irish in the final of the BIG EAST Championship.
GOOD START: Notre Dame opened BIG EAST Conference play 11-0 for the eighth time in nine years since joining the league in 1995. The Irish have posted six undefeated conference seasons and started 11-0 in each of the last two seasons before losing. The only year Notre Dame did not win at least its first 11 league matches was 1998, when the Irish lost at Connecticut in their third conference match of the year.
HOME, SWEET HOME: Playing in the Joyce Center has been a nightmare for opponents, especially since head coach Debbie Brown took over the Irish program in 1991. In that span, Notre Dame is 159-23 (.874) at home, including a school-record 36-match winning streak from 2000-02. In addition to holding a 56-0 all-time mark at home in regular-season BIG EAST matches, the Irish have won 72 in a row at home against conference foes, dating back to 1990, including a 71-0 record in the Brown era. Overall, Notre Dame is 87-4 (.956) in the Joyce Center against league teams in regular-season play.
Notre Dame also has had incredible success against unranked teams. In the Brown era, Notre Dame is 152-6 (.962) against unranked foes in the Joyce Center, with the losses coming to Santa Clara in 1993, Ball State in ’96, Oral Roberts in ’98, Michigan State in the ’02 NCAA tournament, and South Carolina and Pittsburgh (BIG EAST final) in ’03. Each of the first three defeats came in five games. The loss to MSU snapped the 36-match overall home streak and a 52-match home winning streak against unranked teams.
TAKE 20: Notre Dame’s win over Virginia Tech on Nov. 7 improved its record to 20-2, marking its fifth consecutive 20-win season and the 12th time in 13 years under head coach Debbie Brown that the Irish have won at least 20 matches. The lone exception was an 18-13 campaign in 1998. Overall, this is the 15th season with 20+ victories in 24 years of varsity volleyball at Notre Dame.
BIG EAST PLAYER OF THE WEEK DOMINANCE: Notre Dame dominated the BIG EAST Player of the Week award this season, gaining at least a share of it seven times in 11 weeks (while being idle once). Junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) won the initial honor of the season, on Sept. 1. 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 and won the honor again on Sept. 29.
Sophomore MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) dominated the award in the month of October, winning it three times and missing out only on an idle week for the Irish. She gained the distinction Oct. 6, 13, and 27. Brewster is just the third Irish player ever to be named BIG EAST player of the week three times in a season. She joins Mary Leffers (1999) and Kristy Kreher (2001) in that group. She and St. John’s sophomore Jackie Ahlers are the only two players to win the award three times this season.
Most recently, senior co-captain Kristen Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) won the award on Nov. 10.
LOOMIS BREAKS A PAIR OF SCHOOL RECORDS: Junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) has broken a pair of Irish records this season. In the Sept. 9 Valparaiso match, she set a Notre Dame record for most kills in a match without an error (24), while also falling just shy of the school record for kills in a three-game match. The previous mark for most kills without an error was 23, done by Jaimie Lee on September 8, 1995 at Indiana in a five-game victory.
Loomis also set a new record for consecutive matches with 10 or more kills, with a 21-match streak including the final six contests of 2002 and each of the first 15 this year. It was snapped when she had seven kills in a 3-0 win against Rutgers on Oct. 12. The longest streak of that kind prior to Loomis’ was a 17-match stretch by Angie Harris from Oct. 5 to Nov. 28 in 1997. Loomis’ 15-match streak this season was the third-longest in a single season.
Jessica Kinder DIGS HER WAY TO SCHOOL RECORD: On Sept. 9 vs. Valparaiso, Notre Dame senior co-captain OH Jessica Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) set a Notre Dame record with 28 digs, the most ever by an Irish player in a three-game match. Her performance, which featured 10 digs in the first game, three in the second, and 15 in the final frame, bettered the previous record by three. Tracey Shelton scrambled for 25 digs in a three-game win over Butler on Oct. 25, 1989. Kinder’s 28 were the most in any length match for an Irish player since October 25, 1993, when Christy Peters had 31 at Arizona State in a four-game contest.
OCTOBER FEST: Notre Dame posted a perfect 8-0 record in the month of October, marking the first-ever perfect record in a full month of play in the 24-year history of the program. The Irish, who took 24 of 26 games last month, have won 11 consecutive October matches, dating back to last year. Over the last four-plus years, Notre Dame is 34-5 (.872) in October.
Six times before have the Irish gone undefeated in a month featuring a limited schedule — never one with more than four matches in it. Notre Dame went unbeaten in August in 1987 (1-0), ’91 (1-0), ’96 (3-0), 2001 (1-0) and ’02 (2-0), as well as posting an undefeated November (4-0) in 1982.
PACKING THEM IN: Notre Dame set a Joyce Center volleyball attendance record for the second season in a row, averaging 1,576 over its 15 home matches in 2003. The total attendance of 23,643 is the most in the program’s history, while the highest average prior to this season was 1,064 a year ago. The Irish are tops in the conference and Northeast Region in both total and average attendance, while ranking 10th nationally in total attendance and 17th in average. Each of the last five Notre Dame home matches has featured crowds of over 1,000.
A crowd of 8,643 watched Notre Dame outlast Virginia Tech 3-2 on Nov. 7, setting a new Joyce Center attendance record for volleyball by more than 5,000. It was the fourth-largest crowd for a collegiate volleyball match this season. The previous Irish mark was 3,251 on Nov. 1, 2002 vs. Providence. Both matches were played immediately before Irish football pep rallies.
Two days later, 2,715 packed the Joyce to watch the Irish beat Miami 3-0 in a match televised by College Sports Television. It was the largest volleyball crowd in the building for a match not played before a football pep rally.
NOTRE DAME DEFENSE REGISTERS A FIRST IN PROGRAM’S HISTORY: The Notre Dame defense held its opponents to identical -.008 hitting percentages in consecutive matches earlier this season. It was the first time in the 24-year history of the program that Irish opponents registered more errors than kills in back-to-back matches. On Oct. 29, Illinois State had 31 kills and 32 errors on 132 attempts. Two days later, Syracuse notched 32 kills and 33 errors on 129 swings on Sunday. Once before, in 1995, Notre Dame held opponents to negative percentages twice in a three-match span.
On the season, the Irish are on pace to challenge the school record for lowest opponent hitting average, holding foes to a .156 percentage. Notre Dame saw the opposition hit .190 or better just four times in the first 21 matches and eight times overall. Irish opponents hit .070 or worse in four straight matches and five of six at one point in late October-early November. Irish foes have been under .090 on eight occasions in ’03.
Notre Dame was tops in BIG EAST play in opponent hitting percentage at .134, with Pittsburgh second at .162. The Irish are first in the conference in overall matches, as well.
REWRITING THE RECORD BOOKS: The 2003 season has produced a number of individual and team performances that rank among the best in the 24-year history of the Irish program.
On the team front, Notre Dame is currently on pace to break a pair of school season records: block average (3.75; record is 3.66 in ’02) and low opponent ace average (0.93; record is 1.11 in ’96). The Irish also currently rank second all-time in winning percentage in five-game matches (3-1, .750; record is 5-1, .833 in ’92), while being fourth in winning percentage (.793; record is .892 in ’94) and low opponent hitting percentage (.161; record is .151 in ’86) and sixth in kill average (15.58; record is 17.43 in ’00).
Individually, a number of players are on pace to etch their names among the all-time season leaders. Sophomore MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) is averaging 1.81 blocks per game, which currently ranks as the top season blocking average in history, just ahead of Mary Kay Waller’s school record 1.79 in 1988. Brewster also has a realistic shot of setting records for both total blocks (183, record is 206) and block assists (153, record is 161 by Brewster in ’02) this season and her hitting percentage of .353 ranks as the sixth-best mark in a season. Two Irish players are posting dig numbers that are among the best eight defensive seasons ever. Sophomore L/OH Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.) is averaging 3.79 per game, currently ranking third, while senior co-captain OH Jessica Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) is at 3.25, which is eighth. Henican is fifth in digs at 402, while the duo’s combined total of 746 is fourth-best in Notre Dame history. Junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) has 25 matches with 10 or more kills this season, which is the sixth-highest total, while sophomore MB Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) is tied for eighth with 23. Additionally, four Irish players — Henican, Loomis, Jessica Kinder, and senior co-captain S Kristen Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) — have played in all 106 games this season. Only six players in history have played in every game in a season, including Kristen Kinder in ’01.
A number of Irish players also are moving up the all-time career lists in various categories. Loomis is among the leaders in eight categories: percentage of games played (2nd, .957), block average for non-middle blockers (3rd, 0.91), kill average (5th, 3.25), percentage of matches played (6th, .989), matches with 20+ kills (7th, 6), matches with 10+ kills (7th, 57), kills (1,001, 13th), and block average (13th, 0.91). Kristen Kinder is third in assists (3,617) and fourth in assist average (10.83). Jessica Kinder ranks third in total service aces (118), fourth in ace average (0.356), and 11th in dig average (2.50). Fellow senior OPP/OH Kim Fletcher (St. Louis, Mo./Nerinx Hall H.S.) is 11th in hitting percentage (.270), while classmate OPP Katie Neff (St. Louis, Mo./Cor Jesu Academy) is 12th in block average (1.00), but second among non-middle blockers, just .01 behind Zanette Bennett.
Sophomores Brewster, Kelbley, and Henican have reached minimums in a few categories to qualify for the career leaders and figure to move into others as they play more matches. Brewster’s career block average of 1.75 currently is tops all-time, ahead of Waller’s school record of 1.68. Kelbley is fifth at 1.17. In hitting percentage, they rank second and third all-time, with Kelbley at .327 and Brewster at .324. Malinda Goralski (’01) holds the Irish record at .361. Henican is second all-time in dig average (3.11). Kelbley is third in percentage of games played (.954), while Brewster is fifth (.936). They both have played all 61 matches throughout their careers, putting them in a four-way tie for first in percentage of matches played. Brewster is eighth in total blocks (358).
IRISH AMONG THE BIG EAST LEADERS: A number of Irish players are among the BIG EAST Conference statistical leaders. Sophomore MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) leads the league in blocks (1.81) and is third in hitting percentage (.353) and fourth in points (4.82). Sophomore MB Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) is third in blocks (1.24) and 10th in hitting percentage (.306). Senior S Kristen Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) is seventh in assists (10.12), while senior OPP Katie Neff (St. Louis, Mo./Cor Jesu Academy) is seventh in blocks (1.10) and junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) is eighth (1.08). Sophomore OH Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.) is fourth in digs (3.79).
In the team statistics, Notre Dame leads the conference, and the nation, in blocks (3.75). The Irish are in the top five in five other categories: hitting percentage (2nd, .255), opponent hitting percentage (2nd, .161), kills (4th, 15.58), and assists (4th, 14.03).
Notre Dame dominated the leaders in conference matches. The Irish were first in three of the seven categories and second in three others. Notre Dame led the BIG EAST in hitting percentage (.288), opponent hitting percentage (.134), and blocks (4.21), holding sizeable leads in each category. Miami is second in hitting percentage (.245), while Pittsburgh is second in opponent hitting percentage (.162) and blocks (2.76). The Irish were second in assists (14.79), kills (16.26), and aces (1.48).
In the individual leaders in conference matches, Brewster finished first in blocks (1.93) and hitting percentage (.403) and fifth in points (5.10). Loomis also was among the leaders in three categories: blocks (4th, 1.29), points (8th, 4.75), and kills (10th, 3.76). Kelbley was third in blocks (1.34), while coming in fourth in hitting percentage (.340). Kristen Kinder was fourth in assists (12.12), while Henican was fifth in digs (4.07), and senior OH Jessica Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) was 10th in aces (0.26).
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 323-108 (.749) mark, while holding a 440-191 (.697) overall record. Brown’s Notre Dame teams have earned 12 consecutive NCAA tournament berths, advancing to the quarterfinals in 1993 and the round of 16 in ’94, ’95, and ’97. Her squads have won 20 or more matches 12 times. A nine-time conference coach of the year (4 MCC, 4 BIG EAST, 1 Pac-10), she has coached four Irish players to All-America honors, while 32 have gained all-BIG EAST mention since 1995. The Irish also have claimed 12 regular-season conference titles (4 Midwestern Collegiate, 8 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.
IRISH-CARDINALS SERIES NOTES: Notre Dame and Louisville will meet for the 15th time, but the first in the NCAA tournament. The Irish have won 12 of the previous encounters, dropping decisions in 1992 and ’96, both in the Big Four Classic. The teams last played in the 1999 Shamrock Invitational, with the Irish winning in three games.
Notre Dame holds an 18-6 all-time record against current Conference USA teams, having played Cincinnati (3-0), Houston (2-4), and Tulane (1-0) in addition to Louisville. The Irish beat the Cougars in five games in this year’s Longhorn Classic. Notre Dame has never played a Conference USA team in the NCAAs.
IRISH-RACERS SERIES NOTES: Notre Dame and Murray State have never previously met. The Irish hold a 4-1 all-time record against Ohio Valley Conference foes, having won twice against Eastern Kentucky and once vs. Samford while splitting a pair of contests with Morehead State.
IRISH-ILLINI SERIES NOTES: Illinois has won five of the six previous meetings with the Irish, but the teams have not played since 1993. The Illini won the initial five contests, from 1984-91 before Notre Dame registered a five-game win over ninth-ranked Illinois in the 1993 Reebok Challenge. The Irish have lost in all four previous trips to Champaign, including a 3-2 decision in the 1988 NCAA Championship. Three of the ND-Illinois matches have gone to five games.
Notre Dame has a 2-10 record against current Big Ten teams in NCAA Championship play, including seven consecutive losses, dating back to 1993. In each of the last four years — and 10 times in 12 tournament appearances — a Big Ten team has ended the Irish season. Michigan State did the honors in 2001 and ’02, while Ohio State did so in 1999 and 2000.
If Notre Dame and Illinois play in the second round, it would mark the third consecutive year that the schools met in NCAA tournament action in some sport. In 2001-02, the Illini topped the Irish in men’s tennis in the round of 16, while Notre Dame got the best of Illinois in the second round of last season’s men’s basketball tournament.
“NOTRE DAME PRIMETIME” AIRING ON CSTV & WHME-TV: Among the new fall programming for College Sports Television (CSTV) is “Notre Dame Primetime,” a weekly one-hour show dedicated entirely to Notre Dame athletics. It airs on Sundays at 8:30 p.m. (EDT) and can now be seen in the South Bend area on Mondays at 7 p.m. (EST) on WHME-TV. A number of Irish volleyball personalities already have been featured on “Notre Dame Primetime,” including head coach Debbie Brown, OPP/OH Emily Loomis, OH Jessica Kinder, and MB Lauren Brewster. CSTV is currently available nationwide to more than 15 million cable and satellite homes. To find out where CSTV is available in your area, log on to www.CSTV.com, or call your local cable or satellite operator.
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 all 26 varsity sports and serves as a supplement to the match recaps and weekly releases provided on the official athletic website, 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 available to College Sports Pass subscribers supplement the match previews and recaps.
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 information on Irish volleyball should be similarly directed. Credential and interview requests should be made at least 24 hours in advance.