March 11, 2004
The University of Notre Dame volleyball team finished the season 17th in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), which ranks all 311 Division I teams. The Irish were the highest-ranked team from the BIG EAST Conference and the Northeast Region, while only three of their opponents were higher in the final RPI. It was the fourth consecutive season Notre Dame finished in the top 25 of the RPI.
Notre Dame opened the campaign 21-2, the second-best start in school history, putting together a 14-match winning streak — the second-longest ever for the program. The Irish won their first 11 matches in BIG EAST play for the eighth time since joining the league in 1995 before falling to Pittsburgh in the final conference match to share the regular-season crown with the Panthers. Pittsburgh then defeated the Irish in the final of the BIG EAST Championship, denying Notre Dame an eighth tournament title in nine seasons. The Irish lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament to #19 Louisville and finished 24th in the final AVCA national rankings, after peaking at 12th.
Notre Dame was the NCAA’s top blocking team, setting a school-record for the second consecutive season with an average of 3.72 per game. Sophomore MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) was the individual national blocking champion, with 1.78 a game. Brewster, senior co-captain S Kristen Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.), junior OPP/MB Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.), and sophomore MB/OH Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) were all honorable mention All-America after earning all-Northeast region honors. Notre Dame was one of just four teams nationally to have four players gain All-America mention.
A total of 13 ND matches in 2003 were against teams that finished in the top 60 of the RPI. The only Irish foes to be higher than Notre Dame were Pepperdine (4th), Stanford (9th), and Louisville (15th). Six of Notre Dame’s seven losses were against teams ending up in the top 21: Pepperdine, Stanford, Louisville, two vs. Pittsburgh (19th), and Northern Iowa (21st). The Irish had five wins over top-50 RPI teams, notching victories against #31 Arizona, #39 Utah, #47 North Carolina, and a pair against #49 Miami. The Irish, Panthers, and Hurricanes were the only BIG EAST teams in the top 50, while Connecticut (97th) joined them in the top 100.