Oct. 10, 2009
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Senior outside hitter Serinity Phillips recorded her 1,000th career kill and classmate Jamel Nicholas delivered three aces down the final stretch of the fifth set as Notre Dame dealt Cincinnati a 3-2 (25-22, 25-19, 20-25, 23-25, 15-10) loss Saturday at the Joyce Center. The BIG EAST Conference volleyball matchup improved Notre Dame’s league record to 4-0, as the Irish are now the lone team without a league defeat.
The last time Notre Dame got off to a 4-0 league start was in 2006, when that squad rattled off six consecutive BIG EAST wins.
Notre Dame (10-4 overall) got 20 kills from senior outside hitter Christina Kaelin, the ninth match of her career with 20 or more kills. The effort tied her for sixth all-time in that category with Kristy Kreher (1998-2001).
“This was a huge win for us when you look at the big picture,” Irish head coach Debbie Brown said. “We may have to play Cincinnati again if we want to win the BIG EAST Championship, and this was a big boost for our confidence heading into tomorrow’s match against Louisville.
“I can’t say enough good things about our seniors and the load they carried for us throughout the match. Jamel Nicholas put the team on her back when it mattered most, and those are the things you like to see from a team captain.”
Next up for Notre Dame is a home match versus Louisville on Sunday (Oct. 11). The contest will be televised live at 5:00 p.m. (ET) on ESPNU. It will also be the program’s “Dig Pink” match to help raise money for breast cancer awareness. The team will wear commemorative pink jerseys that will be auctioned off after the match. Last year Notre Dame led the nation by raising over $6,000 at the event.
Nicholas wrapped up the match with 52 assists, three kills, eight digs and two blocks. Her three aces in the fifth were part of a 6-0 Irish run to close the set.
Phillips finished with 17 kills against Cincinnati (12-8 overall, 3-1 BIG EAST) as junior middle blocker Kellie Sciacca had 10 kills and seven blocks. Senior middle blocker Tara Enzweiler matched Sciacca’s block total, including a pair to start the fifth set which shifted momentum in Notre Dame’s favor for good.
Phillips joined elite company by becoming the 18th player in program history to record at least 1,000 career kills. The last to do so was current Irish volunteer assistant coach Adrianna Stasiuk. She accomplished the feat during her senior season in 2007.
The Irish out-hit Cincinnati, .245 to .182, as the Bearcats had 33 hitting errors.
Eight different Irish players had a hand in the team’s 18.5 blocks. Phillips had six with sophomore outside hitter Kristen Dealy adding five. Dealy also had eight kills.
Sophomore libero Frenchy Silva steadied the defense with 12 digs.
Stephanie Niemer’s 19 kills led Cincinnati and Emily Hayden contributed 18 more.
Notre Dame scored the first three points of the match and got out in front, 15-9, on a Kaelin kill. Cincinnati came within two (24-22) on Niemer’s ninth kill of the set, but Notre Dame hung on as Megan Turner’s attack went down as an error.
The teams traded points for the first half of the second set but got things going with a 3-0 run to take a 14-10 lead. Cincinnati showed few signs of letting down and made it 18-17 with a Jordanne Scott kill, and then tied it one play later with another Scott liner. From that point, Notre Dame scored five unanswered.
Notre Dame went without a service ace for the next two sets while faulting five times from behind the stripe. Seventeen ties in the fourth made things close, but two Irish errors after a 23-23 stalemate tied the match at two sets apiece.
Enzweiler helped block two shots to open the fifth and Phillips’ 1,000th career kill gave Notre Dame a 5-1 lead. The set was tied at 6-6, 7-7, 8-8, 9-9 and 10-10 before Nicholas went to work with three aces to put the match on lockdown.