Sept. 3, 2003
AUSTIN, Texas – The 21st-ranked University of Notre Dame volleyball team (2-1) will try to continue its hot play this weekend in the Longhorn Classic. The Irish will take on Houston (2-1) Friday at 5 p.m. (CDT) before challenging host Texas (1-2) on Saturday at 7 p.m. (CDT). Notre Dame moved into the national top 25 this week after a strong showing in the season-opening Four Points Sheraton Classic, which featured an upset of #10 Arizona.
FOLLOWING THE IRISH IN THE LONGHORN CLASSIC: Fans and media can follow Notre Dame’s action this weekend in a number of ways. Live scoring of both matches can be accessed via a link on www.und.com. In addition, a live internet audio broadcast of the Texas match will be provided by the Longhorns’ official website, www.texassports.com, and can also be found at http://media.yahoo.com/ncaa/sp/tal/#wvb.
The Notre Dame Sports Hotline (574-631-3000) and www.und.com, as always, will be invaluable resources in following the Irish (see “Keeping Up With ND Volleyball” note on page 6).
SNAPSHOT OF THE IRISH: The 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 302-103 (.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 1995, 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 last week’s conference player of the week, leads the Irish in kills after doing the same a year ago. Senior OPP Katie Neff also returns for her second year as a starter. 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 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 also sees time at libero due to her outstanding defensive skills. L Danielle Herndon, the lone freshman on the Irish, started the season as the top libero. OPP/OH Kim Fletcher and MB/OPP Carolyn Cooper also played key roles off the bench in the opening weekend.
LAST TIME ON THE COURT: Notre Dame opened the season winning two of three matches in the Four Points Sheraton Classic in Malibu, Calif., defeating #10 Arizona and Eastern Washington in four games, while losing 3-1 to #5 Pepperdine.
In Friday’s season opener, the new two-setter formation was very successful. Senior S Kristen Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) and sophomore S Kelly Burrell (Phoenix, Ariz./Xavier Preparatory School) orchestrated an attack that hit .324 for the match. Sophomore MB Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) had a career-high 16 kills on .424 hitting, while junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) posted a .522 attack percentage, hitting 14 kills.
Against the Waves, Notre Dame hit .469 in the first game en route to a three-point victory, but the Irish cooled off and lost the ensuing three games. Sophomore Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) had a career-high 17 kills on .483 hitting in the losing effort.
In the final match of the tournament, the Irish were led by Loomis, who had 18 kills on .412 hitting, while senior OPP Katie Neff (St. Louis, Mo./Cor Jesu Academy) had 15 kills and just one error for a .368 attack percentage.
IRISH ENTER TOP 25: After receiving votes, but not being listed in the preseason top 25, Notre Dame’s upset of #10 Arizona and 2-1 record in the Four Points Sheraton Classic vaulted the Irish into the second USA Today/AVCA Division I Coaches Top 25. Notre Dames is 21st in the rankings released Monday, marking the highest listing for the Irish since October 21, 2001.
A year ago, the Irish were ranked only in the preseason poll, at 25th. They were listed throughout most of ’01, peaking at 19th on October 15, before dropping out in December.
Four ’03 Irish opponents are listed in this week’s top 25, including three in the top 10. Northern Iowa (Nov. 11, away) leads the way at sixth, Pepperdine (L, 1-3) is eighth, Arizona (W, 3-1) is 10th, and North Carolina (Oct. 21, away) is 17th. Miami (Nov. 9, home) and Texas (Sept. 6, away) received votes, but were not in the top 25.
… 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.
LOOMIS FIRST BIG EAST PLAYER OF WEEK: Junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) was named the BIG EAST Player of the Week on Monday afterslamming a team-high 42 kills in the opening weekend of play. Loomis posted a .365 hitting percentage over the weekend, while also leading the team with 14 blocks. 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. Dating back to 2002, she has hit 10 or more kills in nine consecutive matches. It marked the second time Loomis was named the league’s player of the week (also Sept. 30, 2002), while she also was named co-rookie of the week on Nov. 5, 2001.
LOOMIS, KELBLEY GAIN ALL-TOURNAMENT HONORS: Junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) and sophomore MB Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) were named to the Four Points Sheraton Classic all-tournament team. They helped the Irish to a 2-1 record, including an upset of #10 Arizona.
Loomis posted a .365 hitting percentage over the weekend, while also leading the team with 14 blocks. Against 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. Dating back to 2002, she has hit 10 or more kills in nine consecutive matches.
Kelbley had 39 kills on .360 hitting in the tournament, highlighted by a career-high 16 kills on a .424 attack percentage in the Arizona match. She also had 12 blocks, including six against the Wildcats. In addition, Kelbley registered four aces and five digs and was responsible for 49.5 points. Dating back to last season, she has notched 10+ kills in 10 straight matches.
START ME UP: By defeating Arizona on Friday, 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.
Friday’s match 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.
MARATHON GAME: The opening game in Saturday’s Eastern Washington match, which finished with a 37-35 Irish victory, matched the longest Notre Dame game since the rally-scoring format was adopted in 2001. The 37 points set an Irish record for the most in a single game. In November ’02, Notre Dame scored 35 in the second game at Virginia Tech, but lost 37-35.
LETHAL LAURENS ON NEW LEVELS: Both Irish sophomore middle blockers named Lauren registered career highs in kills over the opening weekend. Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) had a team-high 16 in the opener against #10 Arizona, making just two errors for a .424 hitting percentage. In the Pepperdine match, Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) led the Irish with 17 kills on .483 hitting.
IRISH vs. COUGARS: Houston opened its season last weekend, winning two of three matches in the Baylor Classic. The Cougars had four-game wins against Wyoming and Texas-San Antonio, but lost 3-1 to the tournament host. A year ago, Houston was 19-13 (7-6 C-USA) and finished seventh in Conference USA. The Cougars return four letterwinners, including a pair of starters, from that squad. A total of six freshmen dot the Houston roster and five of the nine players used in each of the first three matches are first-year players.
Like the Irish, the Cougars run a 6-2 offense, with junior Mirela Vasconcellos and freshman Lauren Grover handling the setting duties. A pair of freshmen, OH Kelly McAnelly and MH Becca Sartori, have been the most potent offensive weapons for Houston thus far this season. McAnelly had 60 kills (5.00 per game) in the opening weekend, including 22 against Wyoming and 20 vs. Texas-San Antonio. Sartori had 48 kills (4.00 per game) on .379 hitting to go along with seven aces and 11 blocks. Against the Roadrunners, she had 24 kills and only four errors for a .526 attack percentage. Both McAnelly and Sartori were named to the Baylor Classic all-tournament team. Defensively, sophomore Jaci Gonzalez (50 digs/4.17) and junior transfer Cinthia Piva (49/4.08) paced Houston. Against UTSA, Piva had 25 and Gonzalez had 21.
Head coach Bill Walton is in his 17th year at Houston, where he has a 358-200 (.642) record. In 21+ years as a head coach, he is 568-255 (.690).
Notre Dame and Houston will be meeting for the first time since 1997 and the sixth time overall. The Cougars hold a 4-1 advantage in the series, but the Irish registered a five-game victory in the most recent meeting, in Houston. The four other meetings were all on neutral courts, beginning in the 1983 Thanksgiving tournament in Baton Rouge, La.. Three of the previous five matches have been 3-2 affairs.
IRISH vs. LONGHORNS: Texas was ranked 23rd in the preseason national rankings, but fell out following an 0-2 opening weekend of action. In the Mizuno Invitational in Long Beach, Calif., the Longhorns fell in three games to St. Mary’s College before losing 3-1 to #16 Long Beach State. Texas rebounded Tuesday for a four-game victory at home against Texas State (formerly Southwest Texas State) and will play Nicholls State Friday night before taking on the Irish.
In 2002, the Longhorns were 23-9 (13-7), finished fourth in the Big 12 Conference, reached the second round of the NCAA tournament before falling to 10th-seeded Arizona, and finished just outside the top 25. Texas returns eight letterwinners and five starters from that team, including three first-team all-conference selections. Third-team All-America senior OH Mira Topic is the main offensive threat, having hit 57 kills (5.18) through three matches to go along with seven aces and 33 digs (3.00). She had 23 kills against Texas State and 20 vs. LBSU. Junior OH Bethany Howden is second on the team with 41 kills (3.73) to go along with seven aces, while fellow first-team Big 12 honoree MB Kathy Hahn has not seen action yet this season. The Longhorns have been starting three freshmen, including S Jenny Andrew. Defensively, sophomore DS Erin Larson leads Texas with 40 digs (3.64) and senior MB Kathryn Wilson has 12 blocks (1.09).
Head coach Jerritt Elliott is in his third season at Texas with a 41-25 (.621) record. In his fifth year overall as a head coach, he is 91-37 (.711)
Notre Dame and Texas will be playing for the first time since ’97 and the ninth time overall. The Longhorns have won all but one of the prior meetings, including three in a row, with the Irish taking a four-game match in 1994. The teams first met in 1987 and Notre Dame visited Austin for the 1988 Whataburger Invitational, its only previous participation in a tournament hosted by the Longhorns. This will mark the first time in seven meetings and the first time since ’88 that Texas will not be ranked heading into the match. The Irish are 1-4 in Austin. Of the previous eight matches, four were decided in four games and one went to five.
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 302-103 (.746) mark, while holding a 419-186 (.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.
LONE STAR LADIES: A pair of Irish players will be returning to their home state this weekend. Junior OH Leah Nedderman is a native of Grapevine, where she played for Colleyville Heritage H.S. and Texas Advantage volleyball club. Sophomore MB/OPP Carolyn Cooper is a Houston native, having played for Lutheran South Academy and the Houston Juniors volleyball club.
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.
STREAKIN’: 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.
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 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.