Sept. 5, 2003
AUSTIN, Texas – The 21st-ranked University of Notre Dame volleyball team (3-1) started slowly in its first match after cracking into the top 25, dropping the first two games against Houston before rebounding for a five-game victory Friday in the Longhorn Classic. The Irish lost each of the first two frames by 30-25 scores before rebounding for a pair of 30-21 wins and a 15-11 triumph in the fifth game.
In the final game, Notre Dame held a 9-8 lead before getting a pair of kills each from sophomore MB Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) and junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) to put them in position to finish off the match. Leading 13-9, the Irish dropped a pair of points before getting consecutive kills from sophomore MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) and classmate OH Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.) to ice the victory.
It marked the first time since September 2, 2000 that Notre Dame lost the first two games but rebounded for a victory. On that occasion, the Irish came back to upset #15 BYU in the Shamrock Invitational in the Joyce Center.
Kelbley led the Irish offensively, converting a career-high 22 kills, while registering only two errors, for a .526 attack percentage. She also was in on seven blocks, had three service aces, and accounted for 29 points. Loomis also hit well, with 13 kills and only one error on .375 hitting.
One of the obstacles facing Notre Dame in the first two games was the absence of starting middle blocker Brewster, who sat out due to battling flu-like symptoms. Brewster returned for the final three games and was a force, slamming 13 kills on a .409 hitting percentage.
In the third game, Notre Dame jumped out to a 10-4 lead and never looked back, registering a nine-point win. Game four was more of the same with the Irish taking the lead on the first point and never relinquishing it, hitting .417 along the way.
The Irish, second in the nation a year ago in blocks per game, registered 17 against Houston, led by senior OPP Katie Neff (St. Louis, Mo./Cor Jesu Academy), who was in on eight of them.
Also on defense, freshman L Danielle Herndon (Plant City, Fla./Durant H.S.) scrambled for a season-high 15 digs, while sophomore OH Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.) had 13.
After a tough offensive opening game, Notre Dame finished with a .290 hitting percentage, due in large part to the setting of senior S Kristen Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) and sophomore S Kelly Burrell (Phoenix, Ariz./Xavier Preparatory School). Kinder finished with 34 assists, while Burrell had a dozen.
Houston’s offensive scheme fell off after winning the first two games, with the Cougars hitting just .120 over the final three.
Irish sophomore MB/OPP Carolyn Cooper (Houston, Texas/Lutheran South Academy), playing in her home state for the first time as a collegiate player, earned her first career start and played in the first two games.
Notre Dame completes play in the Longhorn Classic Saturday evening, taking on host Texas at 7 p.m. (CDT).