The Irish head into BIG EAST Conference play after this weekend's Golden Dome Invitational.

Notre Dame Returns Home For Golden Dome Invitational

Sept. 18, 2008

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NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame volleyball team will play host to the Golden Dome Invitational this weekend (Sept. 19-21) at the Joyce Center. Liberty, UC Irvine and Western Michigan are set to visit the Fighting Irish in the team’s final showing before tackling the BIG EAST Conference portion of the 2008 schedule.

Notre Dame will rely heavily on the arms of juniors Serinity Phillips (2.45 kills/set) and Christina Kaelin (2.61 kills/set) to power the offensive unit. Junior setter Jamel Nicholas (6.94 assists/set) and freshman Frenchy Silva (3.55 digs/set) have also been key contributors through the first nine matches of the campaign.

This will be the ninth time Notre Dame has hosted the Golden Dome Invitational, carrying an all-time record of 13-8 into this season’s edition. They have won 10 of their last 12 matches in the event.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish
(3-6 overall / 0-0 BIG EAST)

Liberty Flames
(8-2 overall / 0-0 Big South)
Live video / audio / stats:

UC Irvine Anteaters
(4-6 overall / 0-0 Big West)
Live video / audio / stats:

Western Michigan Broncos
(7-1 overall / 0-0 Mid-American)
Live video / audio / stats:

Golden Dome Invitational
Joyce Center • Sept. 19 – 21
University of Notre Dame • Notre Dame, Ind.

Sept. 19 – 5 p.m.
UC Irvine vs. Western Michigan
Notre Dame vs. Liberty

Sept. 20 – 5 p.m.
Liberty vs. Western Michigan
Notre Dame vs. UC Irvine

Sept. 21 – noon
Liberty vs. UC Irvine
Notre Dame vs. Western Michigan

*all times local to site (Eastern)

Bump, Set, Spike …
• Notre Dame dropped each of its three matches at Minnesota’s Diet Coke Classic, albeit each came at the hands of a top-20 squad … the Irish took a game from No. 16 Cal Poly (Sept. 12), pushed No. 4 California (Sept. 13) to five sets, and put up a steady fight against No. 11 Minnesota (Sept. 13) but could not avoid being swept by the Golden Gophers … Kristen Dealy (2.08), Serinity Phillips (2.50), Jamel Nicholas (2.25) and Frenchy Silva (2.42) each averaged 2.00+ digs/set for Notre Dame over the weekend … the Irish take a four-match losing skid into next week’s Golden Dome Invitational (Sept. 19-21) and have dropped six of their last seven conests.

• Sophomore middle blocker Kellie Sciacca earned a spot on Minnesota’s Diet Coke Classic All-Tournament squad … she hit over .300 against No. 4 California (.320) and No. 11 Minnesota (.350) … also had 14 kills and four blocks against the Golden Bears … Sciacca turned in nine kills on 20 swings versus Minnesota and had six kills and an ace in the matchup with Cal Poly.

• Notre Dame has continued to receive steady performances from its freshmen … this past weekend, Kristen Dealy turned in a pair of double-figure kill performances against ranked opponents at Minnesota’s tournament … she had 14 kills with a .265 average with six digs against No. 16 Cal Poly (Sept. 12) … tagged No. 4 California for 10 kills, two aces and seven digs … also finished the weekend with eight kills and 12 digs versus No. 11 Minnesota … Dealy led Notre Dame with 2.67 kills/set over the weekend.

Series Notes …
• The only meeting between Notre Dame and Liberty came during the 1997 NCAA Tournament … that match, played in Fayetteville, Ark., resulted in a 3-0 win for the Irish … they surrendered only 14 total points to the Flames while playing 15-point matches.

• Notre Dame met UC Irvine in 2004 and came home with win after the matchup in the Baden Thanksgiving Tournament in Long Beach, Calif. … the Irish swept the Anteaters in three sets.

• This will be the 15th meeting between the Irish and Broncos and the first since 1995 … Notre Dame has won the past four contests and eight of the last 10 … after falling to Western Michigan in the first four matches of the series (1985-87) Notre Dame swept the Broncos in 1988 while the programs split a pair of contests in 1989 … Sunday’s match is the seventh time that neither team holds a national ranking heading into the duel.

• Both Notre Dame’s Kellie Sciacca (Northeast) and UC Irvine’s Kari Pestolesi (West) were the 2007 AVCA Freshman of the Year for their respective regions.

A Lesson On Liberty …
Liberty became the first visiting volleyball team to win a set at Kansas State’s Ahearn Field House this season, and the Lady Flames snapped the Wildcats’ streak of 297 straight matches with an ace during last week’s meeting … however, No. 19 Kansas State was able to post a 3-1 victory in the final match of the Varney’s Kansas State Invitational … Liberty placed junior middle blocker Chelaine McCarty on the all-tournament team after winning one of its three matches in the tournament … it was the third consecutive all-tournament team McCarty has made this season … the Flames saw their seven-match road winning streak come to an end … previously, Liberty had not dropped a road contest since falling, 3-1, at Winthrop on Sept. 29, 2007.

Early Take On UC Irvine …
The Anteaters return 14 letterwinners from last season’s squad including five starters … four of the five starters were all-Big West Conference honorees last season … UC Irvine also returns the 2007 AVCA West Region Freshman of the Year in Kari Pestolesi … she led UC Irvine with 53 kills in four matches last week and also recorded five service aces while totaling 38 digs to sit second on the team … Pestolesi posted double-double matches against Pitt and Loyola Marymount and logged a season-high of 18 kills against San Jose State … on the season Pestolesi has 107 kills and a 3.34/set average … setter Taryn Robertson handed out 139 assists last week to bring her total to 2,946 in three seasons as an Anteater … the junior needs just 41 to pass alumna Teri Zartman (1997-2000) in the career annals … UC Irvine plays 13 of its first 14 matches this season on the road.

The Bronco’s Business …
The Broncos finished in second in last week’s Black & Gold Challenged hosted by Wake Forest … after losing to the host Demon Deacons, the team rebounded to defeat 2007 NCAA Tournament second round participant Delaware and East Carolina … junior setter Jillian Mitchell was named to her third-straight all-tournament team after leading WMU with 131 assists and six service aces … she flirted with a triple-double against Delaware with 49 assists, 10 digs and eight kills … junior outside hitter Michelle Moore was also named to the all-tournament team after leading the entire tournament with 54 kills while hitting .306 … she had her first double-double of the season with 24 kills and 13 digs against Delaware … her 24 kills in that match were the most this season by a Bronco.

The Silver Lining …
Notre Dame’s current four-match losing skid is only the second in head coach Debbie Brown’s 18 seasons with the program … not since 1995 -Brown’s fifth season with the Irish – had Notre Dame dropped four consecutive matches until its current streak … however, the ’95 squad ran the table against BIG EAST Conference opponents with a perfect 11-0 regular-season record and claimed the league tournament crown … the squad also advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament.

Going Solo …
Senior middle blocker Justine Stremick made her presence felt after seeing action for the first time this season during her debut at the Diet Coke Classic (Sept. 12-14) … Stremick, who missed the first six matches of the season while nursing an injured knee, had eight blocks against No. 16 Cal Poly (Sept. 12) and seven kills versus No. 4 California (Sept. 13) … her four solo blocks throughout the tournament moved her to the eight-spot on Notre Dame’s all-time list, brining her career total to 74 solo bocks.

The Bigger They Are …
It had been a while since Notre Dame faced three consecutive ranked opponents before doing so at the Diet Coke Classic (No. 16 Cal Poly, No. 4 California, No. 11 Minnesota) … the last time Notre Dame challenged ranked foes in there consecutive matches was in 2001 when they went to battle with No. 7 UCLA, No. 1 Nebraska and No. 15 Pepperdine at the U.S. Bank / Arby’s Tournament in Lincoln, Neb. … Notre Dame dropped each of the three matches on both occasions.

More Give Than Take …
Junior setter Jamel Nicholas reached noteworthy milestone at the Idaho Volleyball Classic (Sept. 5-6) by surpassing the 1,000-assist plateau through just over two seasons with the Irish … Nicholas’ 1,006 helpers ranks 10th on the program’s all-time list … coming out of the tournament in Idaho, Nicholas sat at the No. 10 spot in career assist average (1,006 assists in 226 sets for a 4.45/set average) … Nicholas shared time with Ashley Tarutis during her first two seasons with the Fighting Irish and now mentors freshman setter Beth Wildermuth.

Pocket Aces …
Notre Dame served a season-high eight aces against Washington State (Sept. 6), but raised the bar one week later against No. 4 California (Sept. 13) with 10 aces … Serinity Phillips, Jamel Nicholas, Tara Enzweiler and Beth Wildermuth each had two for the Fighting Irish against Washington State … Wildermuth added a career-high four aces against California.

On Top of the Summit …
In 29 seasons of varsity volleyball, Notre Dame earned just its first win over a Summit League opponent with a 3-0 sweep of IPFW (Aug. 29) … the league changed its name from the Mid-Continent Conference to Summit in June 2007 … before the season-opening win over the Mastodons the Irish were 26-8 all-time against the conference and 14-3 under head coach Debbie Brown.

It’s Good To Be Home …
Head coach Debbie Brown earned her 200th home win at Notre Dame with a 3-1 win against Nevada (Aug. 30) … the win moved Brown to 200-38 (.843) within the walls of the Joyce Center … last season she picked up her 400th overall win as the Irish skipper.

Give Silva the Shovel …
Freshman libero Frenchy Silva averaged 4.27 digs/set in four matches during the Shamrock Invitational (Aug. 29-31) … that clip ranked fourth in the BIG EAST Conference and the best among league rookies … Silva scooped 21 shots against Valparaiso (Aug. 31), the first 20-dig effort by an Irish player since Adrianna Stasiuk posted an identical total at Connecticut (Oct. 27) in 2007.

Under .100 Is Fine With Us …
An Irish defense that totaled 13.0 team blocks and registered 58 digs in four sets during a win against Nevada (Aug. 30) held the Wolf Pack to an overall hitting average of .080 … the Wolf Pack posted clips of .000, .162, .114 and .036 in the respective frames … Georgetown (Nov. 2, 2007) was the last team to hit under .100 in a match versus the Irish, finishing with a .031 mark.

Brown Honored By Former Team …
Head coach Debbie Brown was honored on Sept. 4 during the University of Southern California’s match versus Oklahoma as part of the program’s All-Time Great Night … Brown, a former Trojan standout, was joined during the ceremony with longtime friend and teammate Sue Woodstra … permanent banners with Woodstra and Brown’s name and numbers are now displayed in the Galen Center … after graduating from El Segundo High School (Calif.), Brown captained the University of Southern California to a 72-1 two-year record and national titles in both 1976 and 1977, including a 38-0 run in 1977 that, until 1998, was the only unbeaten season in Division I women’s volleyball history … her 1977 squad is still considered one of the all-time greatest at any level of volleyball … Brown (then Debbie Landreth) twice was named a collegiate All-American and received the Mikasa Award as the “nation’s best all-around player” in 1976 and 1977 … the 5-8 outside hitter left USC prior to her junior year, accepting an invitation to train full-time with the U.S. national team … she co-captained the team to a fifth-place finish at the 1978 World Championships … a year later, she and her teammates – including Debbie Green, Flo Hyman, Rita Crockett and Woodstra – qualified for the Olympics in Moscow and were considered serious medal contenders before the United States elected to boycott the games.

Early Experience …
Freshmen Kristen Dealy and Frenchy Silva each cracked the starting lineups in their collegiate debut versus IPFW (Aug. 31) … last season, first-year players Kellie Sciacca and Angela Puente started in the season opener … setter Beth Wildermuth also saw significant action on the court in the season’s first weekend of play … Silva and Dealy earned starting nods in each of Notre Dame’s three matches … Dealy led the Irish with 31 kills (2.82 kills/set) while Silva averaged 4.27 digs/set … not to be outdone, Wildermuth split time with starting setter Jamel Nicholas and posted 3.73 assists/set.

Enzweiler Energizes Irish …
Junior middle blocker Tara Enzweiler set career-high marks in virtually every statistical category during the Shamrock Invitational (Aug. 29-31) … Enzweiler logged a pair of starts and matched or exceeded single-match personal bests in kills (5), attempts (13), aces (2), solo blocks (1), block assists (7), total blocks (8) and points (8.5).

Setting Herself Up …
Junior setter Jamel Nicholas averaged 6.91 assists/set during the Shamrock Invitational (Aug. 29-31) but much of her aid to the Irish offensive attack against Valparaiso (Aug. 31) came by means of a career-high seven kills … her previous high of two kills was set versus Butler (Sept. 15) during Nicholas’ freshman campaign.

Kaelin Christens Court …
Junior outside hitter Christina Kaelin returned from an injury that sidelined her for the duration of the 2007 campaign with three starts at the Shamrock Invitational (Aug. 29-31) … her weekend was highlighted by 13 kills for a .480 clips versus Valparaiso (Aug. 31) … Kaelin was one of Notre Dame’s top offensive threats throughout her freshman campaign.

Shamrock Stars …
Junior outside hitter Serinity Phillips and sophomore middle blocker Kellie Sciacca were each named to the Shamrock Invitational All-Tournament squad … Phillips had 13 kills and 12 digs in the season opener against IPFW (Aug. 29) and scooped at least 10 digs in each of the invite’s three matches … Sciacca secured a double-double – the second of her career – against Nevada (Aug. 30) with a 14-kill, 10-block effort.

BIG EAST Honors Sciacca …
Sophomore middle blocker Kellie Sciacca was selected to the league’s weekly honor roll (Sept. 1) … Sciacca totaled 30 kills (2.73/set) on a .359 average through three matches at the Shamrock Invitational (Aug. 29-31) … she led Notre Dame with 20 blocks over the course of three matches (1.82 blocks/set) and also registered one ace … Sciacca had 14 kills on a .464 average against Nevada (Aug. 30) along with 10 blocks for a double-double … she had seven blocks against Valparaiso (Aug. 31) … she finished with nine kills on 18 swings versus IPFW (Aug. 29).