Nov. 23, 2008
PITTSBURGH, Pa. – In its bid to upset a higher seeded team for the third time in as many tries, the Notre Dame volleyball team fell by a 3-1 (25-23, 28-26, 25-15, 25-22) count to Louisville in the final match of the BIG EAST Conference Championship at Fitzgerald Field House on Sunday. The fifth-seeded Irish (16-14) found themselves in the league’s final match for the 13th time since joining the conference in 1995 while third-seeded Louisville (18-10) claimed its second championship in the past three seasons.
Senior Justine Stremick had 18 kills on a .455 average with three blocks as both junior Christina Kaelin and sophomore Kellie Sciacca each chipped in 12 kills. Freshman Kristen Dealy has 11 kills and 11 digs. Sophomore Megan Dunne led the Irish with 15 digs with freshman Frenchy Silva scooping 10 shots. Junior setter Jamel Nicholas had a match-high 49 assists to lead the Irish to a hitting average of .233, bettering the Cardinal’s .216 mark. Stremick and Dealy earned spots on the all-tournament team for their efforts over the past three contests.
Louisville’s Jana Matiasovska led all players with 21 kills and was named the tournament’s most outstanding player.
Ahead next for Notre Dame is a Nov. 28 home match with Xavier.
The first three points of the match went Notre Dame’s way behind the first of Kaelin’s five kills in the set and a Nicholas ace. A block and a slider from Sciacca gave Notre Dame a 4-2 lead with Stremick pounding an overpass at 7-3. Stremick added the second of her three kills in the frame to help build a five-point lead for the Irish (9-4) but Louisville tied the match at 14-14 with a Gosia Lech ace. The Cardinals went ahead by a score one play later on Matiasovska’s fourth swing of the rally. Matiasovska led all players with seven kills in the frame. Kaelin kept swinging and fired in three kills after the 20-point mark, and the Irish came within one score thanks to a Sciacca blast when Louisville had its first set point. The fifth and final Irish service error of the set decided the final outcome.
A .188 hitting average and 16 kills from the Irish stood ahead of the .139 output from a Cardinal team that converted only 10 kills in the first set. Their faults from behind the line and two receiving errors in the initial stanza for the Irish carried over as action started in the second set. UofL shot out of the gates with an 11-3 lead that was silenced as sophomore Stephanie Slatt floated an ace during Notre Dame’s 6-0 run. Sciacca had a block and two kills to tie the set, 13-13, and Dealy gave Notre Dame its first lead at 14-13. The Cardinals lifted a ball at 15-13 and junior Megan Fesl checked in start a serve that helped the Irish earn three more points. Coming out of the backrow for a kill was Dealy (23-20) with Louisville scoring the next two. Kaelin gave Notre Dame set point which it could not earn, and again, the Cardinals tallied two more unanswered points. The Cardinals made the most of their third set point for a second straight two-score win.
Out of the locker room the Irish put together a 6-1 streak which was added upon when Nicholas won a battle at the net (7-2). She tagged on a kill at 8-3 when Louisville closed within two, 10-8. The Irish orchestrated a six-point swing as Stremick and took advantage of a freeball to control a Louisville run (12-8) then leaped ahead with Phillips for a block (15-8). Sciacca had a kill and late block to deflate the Cardinal attack as the Irish posted the largest win margin of the match and a .419 clip. Notre Dame’s defense held Louisville to an attack average of .061 in the set.
Through three sets, Stremick had 13 kills on 20 swings with only one error (.600) and added three kills in the fourth. Louisville controlled the beginning phases of the final set with a trio of blocks to take the air out of the ball. Sciacca let loose and tied the frame at 8-8 then the Irish tied the set again with a Dealy ace (12-12). It was 16-13 in UofL’s favor when Notre Dame went back to its bread and butter by setting to Kaelin on its next pair of possessions (17-15). Behind by 19-15, Notre Dame called a timeout and returned to the court with a 3-0 run. Dealy rocked the house from the left side (19-16), Stremick fisted the second ball into a Cardinal gap (19-17) and Louisville sailed an ensuing attack (19-18). Louisville tried to break the action with a timeout only to see Stremick register a kill on the next play (19-19). The Cardinals won three of the next four (22-20) and the Irish burned a timeout at 23-21. Kaelin went short corner (23-22) soon before the Cardinals shut the door to close their title run.
BIG EAST All-Tournament TeamWioleta Leszczynska (St. John's)Michelle Rossi (Pittsburgh)Kristen Dealy (Notre Dame)Justine Stremick (Notre Dame)Lecia Brown (Louisville)Justine Landi (Louisville)MVP - Jana Matiasovska (Louisville)