Sept. 26, 2008
TAMPA, Fla. – The hottest thing in Tampa on Friday may not have been the weather, but the offensive prowess of Notre Dame middle blocker Kellie Sciacca. The sophomore sliced USF for 20 kills on 28 attempts for a .643 average during Notre Dame’s BIG EAST Conference opener in front of a feisty South Florida crowd at The Corral on Friday evening. Her efforts, along with 18 kills and a .429 hitting average from Christina Kaelin, led Notre Dame to a 3-1 (25-22, 15-25, 25-21, 25-22) victory over USF in a match that was both team’s BIG EAST Conference opener.
Notre Dame (6-7 overall, 1-0 BIG EAST) now heads to Georgetown for a meeting with the Hoyas on Sunday (Sept. 28). The Bulls fell to 9-6 overall and 0-1 in league play.
Kristen Dealy had a tip and two solo blocks to start the match with Sciacca adding a pair of early kills. Kaelin checked into the game and made it a 10-7 Irish affair with a kill from the right side. Jamel Nicholas spliced the Bulls for an ace (12-7) then leading 13-7, Notre Dame gave up five straight and the Bulls eventually tied the set at 15-15. The fifth of Sciacca’s six kills in the set gave Notre Dame an 18-16 lead. Tara Enzweiler had the last say of an extended rally (20-17) then teamed with Justine Stremick for a block at 22-17. Dealy stayed with the tip shot, this time giving her team a 24-21 advantage and Sciacca put the exclamation on the Bulls with the final kill of the set.
USF improved on a .000 hitting clip in the first set with a .472 mark while winning the second period. The Irish offense was carried by Nicholas to lead off the second frame, as the setter went corner on the second ball then won a joust at the net (3-5) to keep the Irish alive. Kaelin found the center of the defense with a tip (4-5) though USF countered with three scores before Kaelin fired back with a monster kill from the left wing. Another Nicholas delivery to the back corner brought the Irish within a pair (11-13). The first ace of Kaelin’s career brought Notre Dame within one (13-14) and Sciacca later shot down back-to-back kills to make it 16-18 USF. Kaelin skied for a kill at 20-22 and Nicholas fed her again (21-22) on the ensuing play. Despite eventually dropping the set, Notre Dame did post a .406 hitting percentage.
Each of Notre Dame’s first three scores in the third set came off the hand of Sciacca. Dealy aced the Bulls and Kaelin pounded an overpass to give Notre Dame a 5-3 lead. That margin grew to four points at 12-8 and stayed there with Sciacca’s solo block at 14-10. The Irish axles continued to roll as Dealy put a tricky tip over a charging Bull block (19-16) then caught All-American Marcela Gurgel on her heels with a kill at 21-17. Two more kills from Sciacca over the final Irish surge gave the visitors a 2-1 lead in the match after hitting .483 in the set.
It was Sciacca that laid down the first kill in set four then added a second soon after, her 16th of the match without an error. Stremick and Enzweiler notched the first block of the set (7-4) and Enzweiler clogged the middle with a solo stuff at 8-4. The Bulls charged to tie the set (11-11) and hung with Notre Dame during the middle of the stanza. The two teams traded leads but Sciacca pounded an overpass (18-17) to keep the count in Notre Dame’s favor for good.
Dealy turned in 13 kills and 13 digs for the Irish. Megan Dunne had 11 digs and Nicholas finished with 47 assists. Gurgel had 19 kills and 11 digs for the Bulls.