Dec. 9, 2005
COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The sixth-seeded and ninth-ranked University of Notre Dame women’s volleyball (30-4) team saw its season come to an end on Friday in a 30-25, 28-30, 30-25, 25-30, 15-9 decision against 11th-seeded and 12th-ranked Wisconsin (26-6) in the round of 16 of the NCAA Division I Championship in G. Rollie White Coliseum. It was a familiar situation for the Irish, whose only four defeats of the 2005 campaign came in five-game matches. It also was the second consecutive year the Badgers ended Notre Dame’s season.
“I felt like we didn’t play well all night,” said Notre Dame head coach Debbie Brown. “We really struggled, and that is disappointing. It is disappointing to lose, but it is even more disappointing to feel like you could have played better. Wisconsin put a lot of pressure on us, and that may have affected us. But we were uncharacteristically high-error tonight.”
The Badgers got started quickly in the decisive game, winning three of the first four points and not looking back. Wisconsin went up by as many as seven (13-6) and then got the 22nd kill by junior OH Maria Carlini to take a 14-8 advantage. Irish senior co-captain and All-American MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) delivered a kill to save one game point, but ND’s other senior co-captain, L Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.), put her serve into the net on the ensuing point to clinch the Badgers victory. Wisconsin had eight kills on .400 hitting in the final game, and used eight digs and a pair of blocks to keep Notre Dame to just six kills on a .105 attack percentage. It was the fourth consecutive game that the Badgers held the Irish below .200 hitting.
“I can’t really offer an explanation,” said Brewster of Notre Dame’s play in the fifth game. “If we knew what was wrong, we would have corrected it. We really did not play as well as we wanted to, but we still fought really hard. I am proud of this team for that effort.”
The story of the match was Wisconsin’s defense, which finished with 106 digs and 18.5 blocks to hold Notre Dame to just .179 hitting. The Badgers dig total was a season high by 15, and they got career-high digging efforts from sophomores L Jocelyn Wack – who posted a match-high 36 – and DS Megan Mills, who had 18 digs to best her career-high mark by seven. Wack’s total is tied for the third-highest output in Wisconsin history and was the most by a Badger since 1990. Carlini added 15 digs to her match-high kills, and sophomore S Jackie Simpson turned in a season-high 12. Sophomore DS Amanda Berkley added 11 digs, while senior OH Aubrey Meierotto had eight. The 106 digs matched the most by any team against the Irish this season. Tennessee also had that many in a five-game victory on Nov. 26.
After a slow start (just one in the opening game), the Badgers’ block – which came into the match ranked eighth nationally – got heated up, finishing with 18.5 and forcing Notre Dame to cover on 16 more block attempts. Sophomore MB Taylor Reineke led the way with a match-high nine blocks, and Meierotto added seven blocks. Carlini added six blocks – including three solos – while Simpson and senior MB Sheila Shaw took part in four each. It was the second-most blocks against Notre Dame all season (20 by Louisville in the BIG EAST final), as well as the second-largest block margin against the Irish (17-10 by Louisville in the regular-season match on Oct. 29). The Badgers used nine blocks against Notre Dame in game two, but still failed to come out on top.
ND had its six-match winning streak against nationally-ranked teams snapped, dropping a match to a ranked squad for the first time since a 3-2 defeat against #2 Nebraska on Sept. 4, 2004. The Irish were 5-1 vs. ranked teams in 2005, including 9-2 in two-point games.
The Irish were led offensively by senior OH Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) and freshman OH Mallorie Croal (Villa Park, Calif./Mater Dei H.S.), who had 18 kills apiece. Kelbley led the Irish with a .250 hitting mark. Brewster posted 17 kills in her final match, while sophomore OH Adrianna Stasiuk (Park Ridge, Ill./Maine South H.S.) notched her sixth consecutive double-double – and her eighth in the last nine matches – ending up with 15 kills and 20 digs.
Notre Dame did have 99 digs and 12 blocks, but the Badgers still hit .264 for the match. Henican had 27 digs, the 29th and final time in her career with 20+ digs. Sophomore S Ashley Tarutis (Long Beach, Calif./Los Alamitos H.S.) posted a career-high 19 digs, and junior DS Danielle Herndon (Plant City, Fla./Durant H.S.) added 10, while senior MB Carolyn Cooper (Houston, Texas/Lutheran South Academy) notched nine of her own.
Brewster led Notre Dame’s block with seven, and Cooper took part in five. Croal had four blocks of her own.
The Irish served well, finishing with eight aces and eight errors. Herndon led the way, matching her career high with three aces and not missing a serve. She concluded the season with a 1.89 ace-to-error ratio, with 17 aces and only nine errors.
Notre Dame lost to Wisconsin for the fifth consecutive time and has now dropped six of seven all-time matches with the Badgers. UW knocked the Irish out of the round of 16 in their most-recent trip, taking a three-game affair in Madison in 1997. The Badgers beat Notre Dame 36-34, 30-16, 30-16 in the UW Field House in last year’s second round.
Unlike last year’s meeting, it was Wisconsin who took control of the first game early, leading the entire way and using an 8-2 run to go up 14-5. The Badgers would stretch the lead to 10 at 23-13, but Notre Dame would make a late push. The Irish got to within three at 28-25, but UW then got an Audra Jeffers kill and an Irish error to take the opening game. Brewster had eight kills on .312 hitting, and Kelbley converted four of six swings (.667), but the rest of the Irish managed just eight kills on .027 hitting. Wisconsin had 20 kills – including six from Carlini and five by Meierotto – on .353 hitting. The Badgers also had 28 digs, including 10 by Wack. ND also had 25 digs, including seven by Tarutis.
It was Notre Dame that led the entire way in the second game, which was nearly a mirror image of the opening frame. The Irish went up by as many as eight (20-12), but then had to survive a late Badgers push. Wisconsin tied the score at 28-28, but a UW service error gave ND a game point. On the ensuing point, Notre Dame had to scramble to dig a Badgers attack, and the Irish were then able to simply loft their second ball near the net. But Croal adjusted on it and tipped an attack down the middle and barely caught the back line to win the game. Wisconsin outhit Notre Dame (.216-.156) in the game, and also saw its block come alive for 9.5 in the frame (compared to just one for the Irish. But ND used strong serving (three aces, two errors) and floor defense (33 digs, including four or more from five different players). Croal, Kelbley, and Stasiuk had six kills apiece, while Tarutis and Stasiuk registered seven digs apiece. Reineke led the Badgers defense by taking part in five blocks.
Wisconsin led the entire way in the third game, going up by as many as eight early on (13-5). Notre Dame used a run to get within one point, at 16-15, and it appeared that Stasiuk had tied it up with a serve that nestled inside the back line. But that effort was called out, and it proved to be the turning point in the game, as it sparked a 5-1 Wisconsin run that put the game in control of the Badgers for good. UW held ND to just .176 hitting in the game, and got six kills from Carlini.
The Irish won four of the first five points in the fourth game and then went up by as many as five (13-8), but Wisconsin would rally. The Badgers used an Irish error at 14-14 to go ahead and would build their lead to four (21-17). Notre Dame would rally and used a Brewster kill at 23-23 to incite a 7-2 run to force a fifth game. Croal had two kills and a solo block to get it started, and Stasiuk ended the game with a kill and a solo block on Jeffers on the final two points.
Notre Dame posted its first 30-win season since 1994 and reached the round of 16 for the fifth time in program history. The Irish will lose to graduation a group of five seniors that has been among the best classes in program history. In their final season, the quintet – Brewster, Kelbley, Henican, Cooper, and DS/S Kelly Burrell (Phoenix, Ariz./Xavier College Prep School) – helped ND to an all-time high ranking in the AVCA poll, a 15-match winning streak, 11 weeks in the national top 10, and 4-0 record against top-10 teams. Notre Dame will return four starters to the fold next season.
#12 Wisconsin (26-6) 30-28-30-25-15#9 Notre Dame (30-4) 25-30-25-30-9
Kills: UW 79 (Carlini 22), ND 77 (Croal & Kelbley 18)Attack Percentage: UW .264 (Shaw .385), ND .179 (Kelbley .250)Assists: UW 77 (Simpson 67), ND 74 (Tarutis 58)Service Aces-Errors: UW 4-6 (four players, 1), ND 8-8 (Herndon 3)Digs: UW 106 (Wack 36), ND 99 (Henican 27)Blocks: UW 18.5 (Reineke 9), ND 12 (Brewster 7)Points: UW 101.5 (Carlini 27.5), ND 97 (Brewster 21.5)