Sept. 5, 2004
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The 25th-ranked University of Notre Dame women’s volleyball team (1-2) could not hold on a two-games-to-one lead, as #2 Nebraska (2-0) used exceptional fifth-game blocking to survive a scare, rallying for a 30-23, 26-30, 24-30, 30-19, 15-10 victory Saturday evening in the Joyce Center. The Irish will complete a four-match season-opening homestand by welcoming Valparaiso on Tuesday at 7 p.m. (EST) before hitting the road for a five-week span. The final game was tied six times early, and the Irish held leads of 3-2, 4-3, and 5-4. Three straight points from the Huskers after the game’s final tie gave Nebraska a 9-6 lead and forced a Notre Dame timeout. Back-to-back kills from junior MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) cut the lead to 11-10, but the Huskers got kills from freshman OH Sarah Pavan and junior OH Jennifer Saleaumua and then finished the match with a pair of blocks. Nebraska, which outblocked last year’s NCAA blocking champ Notre Dame for the second straight night (15-12), had six blocks in the final game. After struggling for the first eight games of the 2004 season, Notre Dame’s offense finally found its groove in game two on Saturday. Rookie S Ashley Tarutis (Long Beach, Calif./Los Alamitos H.S.), who started and was the only setter for the Irish after she was used in a rotation in the first two matches, helped Notre Dame to 21 kills (20 of them coming from her sets) and only three errors for a .429 hitting mark in capturing game two before orchestrating an attack that hit .441 (17 kills, two errors) in controlling the third game. Tarutis and the Irish ended up with a .244 attack percentage, and she finished with a season-high 51 assists, as well as six kills (on .357 hitting) and 14 digs. Brewster regained her 2003 form for the first time this season, finishing with 18 kills on a .452 hitting percentage. She also had seven blocks – including four of the solo variety – to go along with five digs and a service ace. Her 24.5 points were a match high. Junior OH Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) added 15 kills for the Irish, while junior captain OH Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.) notched a double-double, finishing with 11 kills and a team-high 15 digs. Freshman OPP Adrianna Stasiuk (Park Ridge, Ill./Maine South H.S.) turned in a solid all-around performance, with eight kills on .294 hitting to go with 12 digs, four assists, and a pair of block assists. Senior MB Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) had nine kills, six digs, and four blocks. The Irish nearly pulled off their biggest victory (in terms of national rankings) in school history. The highest-ranked opponent ever to fall victim to Notre Dame was Nebraska, when the #3 Huskers lost in four games in the 1993 Golden Dome Invitational in the Joyce Center. Nebraska, which defeated Notre Dame in three games on Friday night, has won five in a row against the Irish. Pavan led all players in kills for the second night in a row, ending up with 20 to lead five huskers in double figures. Saleaumua notched 18 on .444 hitting to go with 16 digs. Rookie MB Tracy Stalls was in on eight of the Huskers blocks, and she also had seven kills. Junior All-American MB Melissa Elmer had 11 kills and seven blocks. Sophomore OH Dani Mancuso played only the final two and a half games, but finished with 11 kills and no errors on 16 swings for a .688 attack percentage. Notre Dame came out hot in the first game, sprinting to a lead of as many as six points (11-5). Trailing 13-8, Nebraska won six straight points to take its first advantage. The final Irish lead came at 17-16, but the Huskers then won eight of the next nine – with a service error the lone blemish – to take control of the game. Saleaumua led Nebraska in the first game, with six kills on 10 attempts, while the Irish had six blocks after accumulating only 10 in the entire match on Friday. Game two featured 10 ties, but Nebraska held the lead just once – at 7-6 – as the Irish registered 21 kills, including seven apiece from Kelbley and Brewster. The Huskers hit .341 and had 20 kills, but it was not enough. When two straight points had cut the lead to 28-26, Tarutis found Brewster for a kill, and then followed that up by hitting Stasiuk, who thundered the ball to the floor to snap a streak of 13 consecutive games dropped to Nebraska. It was the first game the Huskers had lost to the Irish since 1993. The Irish never trailed in game three, extending their lead to as much as seven points before winning the game on a Husker error. Nebraska won the first six points of game four and never relinquished that advantage, going up by as many as 12 points (on three different occasions) in forcing a fifth game. The Huskers had 18 kills, including seven by Mancuso. The Irish struggled offensively in the three games they lost, hitting just .087 (29 kills, 21 errors, 92 attempts) combined in the first, fourth, and fifth games. The Huskers’ blocking game was a big part of that, as 14 of the 21 Notre Dame attack errors in those games came on Nebraska blocks.