Aug. 30, 2003
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – After upsetting 10th-ranked Arizona in Friday’s season opener, the Notre Dame volleyball team (2-1) came back on Saturday to split a pair of matches to complete play in the Four Points Sheraton Classic in Firestone Fieldhouse. The Irish lost a morning match to #5 Pepperdine in four games (27-30, 30-22, 30-15, 30-23) before coming back to top Eastern Washington 3-1 (37-35, 25-30, 30-22, 30-21).
In the nightcap, junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) led the Irish offense with 18 kills on .412 hitting, while senior OPP Katie Neff (St. Louis, Mo./Cor Jesu Academy) had 15 kills and just one error for a .368 attack percentage. Sophomores MB Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) and MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) each had 11 kills, with Kelbley hitting at a .333 clip.
Defensively, sophomore OH Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.) led Notre Dame in digs for the third straight match, registering 10. The team had 10 blocks, led by Loomis, who was in on half of them, including two solo affairs.
Kelbley and senior OH Jessica Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) each had three service aces.
Notre Dame and Eastern Washington battled in the first game until the Irish finally pulled out a marathon 37-35 victory. Notre Dame trailed 25-20 before running off five straight points knot the score. Then, after saving five EWU game points, the Irish finally converted on their third game point when the Eagles swatted consecutive attack errors with the score tied, 35-35. The 37 points scored in one game is a Notre Dame record.
Eastern Washington bounced back in game two, posting a .359 attack percentage and grabbing a five-point victory to even the match. The Eagles offense would struggle the rest of the night, though, hitting just .037 combined over the final two games.
The third and fourth games both featured late Irish runs that were the difference. In the third, Notre Dame won nine of the final 11 points after holding a 21-20 lead. That stretch was keyed by a pair of kills each from Kelbley and Henican. The fourth game saw the Irish take 12 of the last 15 points after the score was 18-18. In that run, Loomis had three kills
Notre Dame stayed perfect against the Eagles, having won the only previous meeting — a 3-1 decision in the first round of the 1998 NCAA tournament.
Against Pepperdine, the Irish looked like they were on their way to a second-straight upset when they came out hitting a blistering .469 (17 kills and two errors) in the opening game on the way to a 30-27 victory. But the Notre Dame attack quickly cooled off, hitting just .122 over the final three games.
Sophomore Brewster paced the Irish offense with a career-high 17 kills with just three errors for a .483 attack percentage. Classmate Kelbley added a dozen kills on .308 hitting, while Loomis had 10.
Defensively, Henican led the way with 13 digs. Notre Dame had nine blocks, with Brewster and Loomis (who had a pair of solo blocks) each in on four.
Pepperdine, which carries the highest ranking in the history of its program, brought a potent offensive arsenal against the Irish. A year ago, the Waves ranked third in the nation with 17.42 kills per game and fifth with a .293 hitting percentage. Pepperdine bested both of those marks against Notre Dame, blasting 70 kills (17.5 per game) on .320 hitting. Senior All-American and 2002 West Coast Conference Player of the Year OH Katie Wilkins posted a match-high 21 kills, while sophomore OH Katy Daly had 17 on .414 hitting.
The Waves got a measure of revenge for last year, when Notre Dame upset #10 Pepperdine in five games in the championship match of the Golden Dome Invitational in the Joyce Center.
Friday’s Arizona match was the first time Notre Dame had opened the season against a nationally-ranked team and the first-ever Irish win over a ranked foe in the month of August. Overall, Notre Dame now holds a 12-3 record in August.
The Irish will return to action next weekend, taking part in the Longhorn Classic in Austin, Texas. Notre Dame will take on Houston Friday at 5 p.m. (CDT) and #23 Texas Saturday at 7 p.m. (CDT).