Sept. 2, 2004
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The 25th-ranked University of Notre Dame women’s volleyball team (1-0) overcame widespread offensive struggles and an outstanding individual performance to defeat Loyola University Chicago (0-1) 30-24, 30-19, 17-30, 30-28 Wednesday evening in the Joyce Center in the season opener for both teams. The Irish, who opened 1-0 for the 14th consecutive season, will have little time to rest, as they play host to #2 Nebraska for a pair of matches this weekend (Friday and Saturday, both at 7 p.m.). Senior OH Nichol Amberg led the Ramblers upset bid by registering 23 kills and 20 digs.
Notre Dame’s offense, which had been led by 2004 graduate and honorable mention All-American Kristen Kinder for the past three years, had a new face, as it was orchestrated by the combination of junior S Kelly Burrell (Phoenix, Ariz./Xavier College Prep School) and freshman S Ashley Tarutis (Long Beach, Calif./Los Alamitos H.S.). The Irish hit .198 for the match and were below .185 in all but one game, but in game two, the duo had Notre Dame clicking. The Irish had 17 kills and only two errors on 37 attempts for a .405 mark in that frame.
Burrell, who made her third career start – and first since ’02 – played when the setter position was in the front row and finished with 24 assists, as well as a pair of digs and two blocks. Her assist total was higher than her best effort during the entire ’03 campaign, when she began as a regular in Notre Dame’s 6-2 offense. Tarutis, who played in the back row, turned in a double-double in her first collegiate match, ending up with 14 digs to go along with 24 assists of her own.
Junior OH Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.), playing in her first match as Notre Dame’s team captain, also registered a double-double in a solid all-around performance. Starting at outside hitter after being Notre Dame’s libero for most of last season, she finished with 10 kills and 22 digs to go along with a career-high four service aces and three blocks. It marked the fifth time in her career Henican, whose 3.15 career dig average heading into the season ranks as the second-best in Irish history, has had 20 or more digs in a match and constituted her third career double-double.
Henican was not alone in her serving prowess, as Notre Dame finished with 11 aces and only five service errors (while Loyola managed only four aces of their own). It was the most service aces for the Irish in a match since they had 14 at Louisiana State in 2001. Leading the way was rookie OH/OPP Adrianna Stasiuk (Park Ridge, Ill./Maine South H.S.), who started at opposite in her first collegiate match and used her jump serve to notch five aces. It was the most for any Notre Dame player in a single contest since Kristen Kinder served up that many against Kentucky in October of ’01. Stasiuk, who hails from the Chicago suburb of Park Ridge and played for Maine South High School and the Sports Performance Volleyball Club, also had 14 digs to go with four kills, four assists, and a pair of blocks.
Senior OH/MB/OPP Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) was Notre Dame’s top hitter, as she finished with 15 kills on a .316 attack percentage. Playing middle blocker after being an outside hitter and opposite throughout most of her first three seasons, she also had eight digs and six blocks. Four of Loomis’ blocks were of the solo variety, leaving her just one shy of the school record for solo blocks in a match shorter than five games. Most recently, Mary Kay Waller tied that record with five block solos against LSU in 1988.
Junior MB/OH Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) also had 15 kills, as well as a career-high six digs and two aces.
Notre Dame’s floor game was improved from last year, as the Irish finished with 79 digs, an average of 19.75 per game. In 2003, Notre Dame’s dig average was 15.48. Five Irish players had eight or more digs, led by Henican and the two freshmen. In addition to Kelbley, fellow junior MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) also registered a career high in digs, with eight.
Brewster, who led NCAA Division I in blocking a year ago, was tops on the Irish with seven blocks. Notre Dame, the nation’s top blocking team in ’03, finished with 14.5 blocks, an average of 3.63 per game that was under its ’03 mark (3.72), but higher than the block average of every other Division I school last season (Cornell finished second at 3.52).
In addition to the noteworthy debuts of Tarutis and Stasiuk, fellow rookie OH/OPP Ellen Heintzman (Louisville, Ky./Sacred Heart Academy) came off the bench to play in two games (the second and third) and provide an offensive spark. A five-time All-American for the Kentucky Indiana Volleyball Academy (KIVA), Heintzman converted four of her six attack attempts for kills and did not make an error. She was in on a pair of blocks.
The Irish started well, getting three kills from Kelbley to build an immediate 5-1 lead. Loyola rallied to tie the match at 7-7, but Loomis took a set from Tarutis and found the floor on the next point to give Notre Dame a lead it would not surrender. The Irish led by as many as seven and ended up winning the game by six points on a Henican kill.
Notre Dame again got off to a quick start in game two, building a 6-2 advantage en route to an 11-point victory. Loomis led the way with eight kills and no errors on 13 swings, while Burrell had nine assists.
Junior MB Hilary Stromath led off game three with a service ace to give Loyola its first game lead. This time it was the Ramblers who found their offensive rhythm, as they never trailed in storming to an advantage as large as 14 points before winning 30-17. It was the most lopsided game victory ever for Loyola against Notre Dame, besting 15-4 wins in 1981 and ’90. The Ramblers had 17 kills on .343 hitting, highlighted by nine from Amberg, to snap a string of 13 consecutive games lost against the Irish, dating back to 1992. It also was just the second game (also a 15-12 decision in game three in 1991) Loyola had won in the Joyce Center in four all-time trips. Notre Dame had eight attack errors and only 10 kills, though three of those came from Heintzman.
Loyola got started quickly again in the fourth game, winning four of the first five points before Notre Dame rallied to take the lead at 7-6. After four ties midway through the game, the Irish took advantage of a Rambler attack error and then got kills from Stasiuk and Kelbley to go up 21-18. After a Loyola kill, Notre Dame saw another Rambler attack error before Kelbley served up consecutive aces and Brewster slammed a kill to take a 25-19 lead. Loyola would rally, pulling to within 27-26, but after an Irish timeout, Loomis and Kelbley slammed kills. After two Ramblers points made the score 29-28, Loomis took a set from Burrell and finished off the match with a kill.
Notre Dame has started the season with a win in every year since the arrival of head coach Debbie Brown in 1991. The last time the Irish fell in their season opener was 1990, when they lost in four games to Montana in the Washington State Invitational in Pullman, Wash. Notre Dame is now 20-5 in season openers.
The Irish won their first home match for the 15th consecutive year to improve to 20-5 all-time in home openers, as well. The last time a team beat Notre Dame in its first home match of the season was in 1989, when Western Michigan took a five-game decision in the Notre Dame Invitational.
Stromath finished with 13 kills for Loyola, while Kathryn Langheld had eight on .316 hitting. Lauren Holbrook finished with 51 assists and 16 digs and libero Ann Deelo had 17 digs.
The win was the 10th in a row for Notre Dame at home in regular-season play. A crowd of 1,083 took in the spectacle.
Notre Dame and Loyola, former foes in both the North Star and Midwestern Collegiate Conferences, were meeting for the first time since 1994. The Irish have now won nine in a row against the Ramblers and 13 of the 16 all-time contests. Notre Dame improved to 22-0 against current Horizon League members under Brown and 37-11 (.771) all-time.
When Nebraska arrives on campus this weekend, the Huskers will become just the third team ranked among the nation’s top two to play volleyball in the Joyce Center. NU will be the highest-ranked team to play at Notre Dame since #2 Florida beat the Irish in four games on Sept. 8, 1997. Live internet audio of the action on both nights will be available to subscribers of College Sports Pass on www.und.com, as Dr. Lorne Oke and Stephen Hinkel call the action.