Sept. 10, 2004
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – The University of Notre Dame women’s volleyball team (2-3) played a five-game affair for the third straight match, this time prevailing 30-21, 27-30, 30-20, 31-33, 15-12 against Fresno State (3-2) in the Cal Poly-Best Western Royal Oak Invitational in Mott Gym on Friday afternoon. The Irish had five players register 10 or more kills and three finish with double-doubles in snapping a three-match losing streak.
Notre Dame never trailed in the final game, ending up with nine kills on .300 hitting to win the first-ever match between the schools in women’s volleyball.
The Irish defense was a key to victory, as it held Fresno State to a .120 hitting mark for the match and allowed the Bulldogs to hit better than .150 in just a single game. After its opening week of play, Fresno was ranked third in NCAA Division I in both team kills (18.07) and assists per game (16.43). The Bulldogs were held to 11 kills or fewer in three games and ended with just 66 on the afternoon for an average of only 13.20 per game. Fresno State averaged only 13.00 assists, and the Irish topped the `Dogs in both categories, with 69 kills and 67 assists.
Freshman S Ashley Tarutis (Long Beach, Calif./Los Alamitos H.S.) led Notre Dame’s offense to its most consistent effort of the year, as the Irish had 14 or more kills in all of the 30-point games and hit above .275 in three frames and below .210 just once, ending up with a .215 mark for the match. Tarutis had 45+ assists for the third consecutive match, finishing with 49 to go with a season-high 18 digs. It was her fourth double-double in her five collegiate contests. Tarutis also used her jump serve to register her first two service aces and was in on a season-high three blocks.
Another rookie, OPP Adrianna Stasiuk (Park Ridge, Ill./Maine South H.S.), had her second straight double-double, with 15 kills on a team-high .286 attack percentage to go with 11 digs. She also took part in four blocks and had four assists.
Junior MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) also had a double-double for the second time in as many contests, ending up with 14 kills on .250 hitting and matching her career high for the second match in a row with 13 digs. She also tied her season high with three service aces and was in on seven blocks.
Junior OH Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) led the Irish with 17 kills. She is the only Irish player to have 10+ kills in every match this season, and she has reached double figures in the category in 36 of the last 42 matches.
Freshman OH Ellen Heintzman (Louisville, Ky./Sacred Heart Academy) made her first career start after seeing time at both opposite and libero over the first four matches of the season. She responded with a collegiate-high 10 kills on .231 hitting, as well as her first service ace as a Notre Dame player.
Notre Dame finished with 82 digs, while Fresno State – which averaged 21.93 last week to be sixth in the nation – had 77 (15.40 average). It was the first time in eight matches (dating back to last year) that the Irish outdug their opponent. Leading that effort was junior captain Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.), who donned the libero jersey for the first time this season and finished with 22 digs to match her season-best total. It was the third time in `04 and the seventh time in her career that Henican has had 20 or more digs. Sophomore DS/L Danielle Herndon (Plant City, Fla./Durant H.S.) had her top performance of 2004, finishing with nine digs.
The Irish dominated the net in a matchup of two of the top 10 blocking teams in Division I from a year ago. Notre Dame, which led the NCAA in ’03, ended up with 15 blocks, highlighted by seven from both Brewster and senior MB Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.), who also had 12 kills. Seven different Irish players took part in blocks, while Fresno State ended up with just seven total blocks.
Senior OH Kristen Fenton, the Bulldogs’ top hitter who was tabbed honorable mention All-America by the AVCA in ’03, had difficulty with the Irish defense, ending up with a .127 hitting percentage, though she notched a match-high 19 kills on 63 attempts. Her 3.80 kills per game were far below her usual performance. Fenton finished 20th in the nation a year ago with a 5.21 average and was 11th nationally this season with a 5.64 mark.
Fresno State was without its starting setter most of the night, as junior Robyn Keune – who was sixth nationally in assists (14.43) early in ’04 after being 35th a year ago – played in only two games and had just six assists. Filling in for her was freshman Ilima Sam Fong, who had played in only two games in Fresno’s first four matches of ’04. She finished with 47 assists and 12 digs and was the only Bulldog to hit better than .170 (four kills on .250 hitting).
Notre Dame is currently listed 26th in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) national poll after being ranked 25th in the preseason. The Bulldogs were listed 43rd in the preseason rankings, but did not appear in this week’s poll.
The Irish lost 3-2 decisions against #2 Nebraska last Saturday and vs. Valparaiso on Tuesday. Notre Dame has played three consecutive five-game matches for just the second time in school history. The only previous instance came from Nov. 16-24, when the Irish beat Loyola Chicago in the final of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference Championship before losing to San Francisco (18-16 in the fifth) and then winning at Hofstra.
Sophomore OH/MB/OPP Julie McElroy (Ames, Iowa/Ames H.S.) made her collegiate debut, playing in one game as a front-row sub for the Irish. She joined the Notre Dame roster last spring as a non-scholarship player. Senior DS/L Kelly Corbett (Mountain View, Calif./St. Francis H.S.) registered her first dig of the season, playing one game in front of a home-state crowd.
Notre Dame scored 133 points, which was one away from its highest-ever total in a match under the current 30-point scoring format.
Notre Dame will be busy on Saturday, as it plays a pair of matches in concluding action in the Cal Poly-Best Western Royal Oak Invitational. The Irish will play defending Big Sky Conference champion Sacramento State for the first time ever at 11:30 a.m. (PDT) before challenging the tournament host, Cal Poly, at 7 p.m. The Mustangs are coached by former Irish assistant Steve Schlick, who also coached current Irish assistant Louella Lovely at Cal Poly in 1996.
The tournament is the first leg of the longest midseason road trip in program history, as the Irish will be on the road for 10 straight matches and will not play in the Joyce Center again for 36 days, until a contest with Illinois State on Oct. 13.