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Notre Dame Preseason Favorite To Defend BIG EAST Title

July 31, 2003

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Once again the University of Notre Dame volleyball team is the favorite in the BIG EAST Conference. The Irish, who have captured seven regular-season and seven tournament crowns in their eight years in the league, garnered nine first-place votes and were chosen as the favorite in the preseason volleyball poll of conference head coaches, announced this week. Two Irish players, junior opposite/outside hitter Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) and sophomore middle blocker Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.), were selected to the preseason all-BIG EAST team.

Notre Dame, which won both the regular-season and BIG EAST Championship titles in each of the last two seasons, was ranked first by the coaches with 141 points. Miami, which snapped an Irish 43-match conference winning streak last November before falling to Notre Dame in the tournament final, gained four first-place votes and was picked second with 136 points. The teams will meet in the Joyce Center on November 9 in a match televised by College Sports Television (CSTV) in its Sunday Night Spike national match-of-the-week package.

Pittsburgh, which tied for fourth in the league a year ago but did not qualify for the conference tournament, was third with 117 points, while Virginia Tech was fourth with 101 points. The Irish will be at Pittsburgh in the regular-season finale on November 16 and will play host to the Hokies, who tied for second a year ago, on November 7.

Loomis, the most outstanding player in the 2002 BIG EAST Championship, was a first-team all-conference selection a year ago, leading the Irish with 400 kills (3.70 per game). Kelbley was named rookie of the year for the conference and AVCA northeast region a year ago. A second-team all-league player, she had 303 kills (2.89 per game) and 109 blocks (1.04).

Joining Loomis and Kelbley on the preseason all-BIG EAST team were preseason player of the year Valeria Tipiana and Mallorey James of Miami, Pittsburgh’s Megan Miller, and Shayla Bush of Rutgers.

BIG EAST conference play gets underway on September 26, when Villanova visits the Joyce Center, and culminates November 22-23 with the top four teams participating in the league tournament, also in the Joyce Center.

The Irish, which begin their season Aug. 29 vs. Arizona in the Four Points Sheraton Classic in Malibu, Calif. before opening at home Sept. 9 against Valparaiso, return all six starters and 12 monogram winners from last year’s team that was 24-8 (11-2) and earned the 16th seed in the NCAA Championship before falling in the second round.

Tickets for all 2003 Irish home contests are available via the Notre Dame ticket office at (574) 631-7356.

2003 BIG EAST Volleyball Preseason Poll

team (1st place votes), points, ’02 conference record, ’02 conference finish, ’02 tournament finish

1. Notre Dame (9), 141, 11-2, 1st, champion
2. Miami (4), 136, 10-3, T-2nd, runner-up
3. Pittsburgh, 117, 9-4, T-4th
4. Virginia Tech, 101, 10-3, T-2nd, semifinals
5. Georgetown, 93, 7-6, T-6th
6. Connecticut, 87, 9-4, T-4th, semifinals
7. Rutgers, 78, 6-7, T-8th
8. St. John’s, 63, 6-7, T-8th
9. Villanova, 58, 7-6, T-6th
10. Syracuse, 51, 5-8, T-10th
11. Seton Hall, 36, 5-8, T-10th
12. Boston College, 29, 3-10, T-12th
13. West Virginia, 24, 3-10, T-12th

Preseason Player of the Year
Valeria Tipiana, Miami

Preseason All-BIG EAST Team
Mallorey James, Jr., S, Miami
Valeria Tipiana, Jr., OH, Miami
Lauren Kelbley, So., MB, Notre Dame
Emily Loomis, Jr., OPP, Notre Dame
Megan Miller, Jr., MH, Pittsburgh
Shayla Bush, Sr., OH, Rutgers