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The Joyce Center Plays Host To The 2000 BIG EAST Volleyball Championship This Weekend

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WHO: Notre Dame, Rutgers, Pittsburgh and Connecticut.

WHAT: The 2000 BIG EAST Volleyball Championship.

WHERE: The Joyce Center, Notre Dame, Ind.

WHEN: #1 Notre Dame vs. #4 Connecticut, Saturday, Nov. 18, 1:00 p.m.

#2 Rutgers vs. #3 Pittsburgh, Saturday, Nov. 18, 3:30 p.m

Semifinal one winner vs. Semifinal two winner, Sunday, Nov. 19, 2:00 p.m.

Irish Pursue Fifth BIG EAST Volleyball Championship this Weekend: The Notre Dame Volleyball team (23-5, 11-0 in BIG EAST), ranked 20th in the USA Today/AVCA top 25 poll, attempts to capture its fifth BIG EAST volleyball championship title this weekend as the Joyce Center plays host to the 2000 BIG EAST Volleyball Championship. The Irish have advanced to the championship match in all five of its previous trips to the tournament.

2000 BIG EAST Tournament: The 2000 BIG EAST Volleyball Tournament will be played at the Joyce Center for the first time since 1995 this weekend. Notre Dame has secured the number-one seed in the tournament and will face #4 Connecticut (18-11, 7-4) Saturday, Nov. 18, at 1:00 p.m. Second-seeded Rutgers (22-6, 9-2) will face #3 Pittsburgh (22-9, 8-3) at 3:30 p.m., that same day. The championship match will be played on Sunday, Nov. 19 at 2:00 p.m. The Irish boast a .909 winning percentage (10-1) in tournament play since they joined the league in 1995 and have captured four tournament titles.

BIG EAST Regular Season Title: Notre Dame captured its fifth BIG EAST regular season title in six years with victories over conference opponents Boston College and Providence (Nov. 3 and 5). The Irish have lost only two BIG EAST regular season matches during their six years of conference competition.

Scouting the Huskies: Connecticut is 18-11 in 2000, 7-4 in conference play … Notre Dame leads the series 6-1, including a five-game victory at UConn, Oct. 29. … Irish outside hitter Christi Girton (Muncie, Ind.) scored a career-best 31 kills in the contest … the Huskies are led by the combination of Stephanie Schindel (385 kills, 3.7 per game), Janice Dykema (297 kills) and Melissa Wooley (2.94 kills, 3.34 per game).

Scouting the Scarlet Knights: Rutgers is 22-6 in 2000, 9-2 in conference play … Notre Dame leads the series 7-0, including a three-game sweep Oct. 20, in the Joyce Center … Irish opposite Kristy Kreher (Birmingham, Mich.) had 14 kills, 15 digs and five blocks in the match … Kera Carter leads the Scarlet Knight offense with 409 kills on .319 hitting.

Scouting the Panthers: Pittsburgh is 22-9 in 2000, 8-3 in conference play … Notre Dame leads the series 14-3, including a four-game victory at Pittsburgh, Nov. 8 … Stacey Renick leads the Pitt offense with 488 kills on .242 hitting … Notre Dame’s Christi Girton set a then-career best mark with 30 kills against the Panthers in the Oct. 8 meeting … Pittsburgh is back in the championship after missing it last year for the first time since the tournament began in 1982.

Syracuse Recap: For the fifth time in six years, the University of Notre Dame volleyball team (23-5) finished 11-0 in BIG EAST regular season competition with a four-game victory (15-13, 13-15, 15-5, 15-3) over Syracuse (24-10, 6-5) on Saturday.

Senior co-captain Christi Girton continued her recent red-hot hitting against the Orangewomen. Girton posted 20 kills in the match, making it her seventh-consecutive match with double-digit kills. She also had eight blocks and five digs in the contest.

Girton was not the lone offensive star for Notre Dame on the day, as four Irish spikers notched double-digit kills in the match. Junior Kristy Kreher had 18 kills and nine digs, while classmates Marcie Bomhack (Waukesha, Wis.) and Malinda Goralski (Missouri City, Texas) each had 14 kills. Bomhack, the reigning BIG EAST player of the week, also had 12 digs.

The Irish offensive prowess would not have been possible without the stellar play of setter Denise Boylan (Lisle, Ill.). In one of her best matches of the season, Boylan posted 67 assists, 10 digs, six kills (on seven attempts) and a block. The Irish had a .359 hitting percentage in the match, due mostly to the ball control of Boylan and some solid passing from the back row.

Marcie Bomhack named BIG EAST Player of the Week: Junior outside hitter Marcie Bomhack was named the BIG EAST Player of the Week on Monday, Nov. 6, for her performance in three Notre Dame victories.

Bomhack was instrumental in the three Irish sweeps over Boston College, North Carolina and Providence, pushing the Notre Dame 2000 season record to 21-5 and 10-0 in the BIG EAST Conference. She hit .540 in the three matches with 36 kills (5.1 per game), 23 digs (3.2 per game) and seven blocks (1.0 per game).

Against BC on Friday, Nov. 3, Bomhack had six kills while playing just two games on .417 hitting. She also had a team-high nine digs in the contest.

Sat., Nov. 4, she posted 16 kills on .483 hitting against non-conference opponent North Carolina. She also had five blocks and five digs in the contest, including a game-winning solo block to score the deciding point of the second game to give the Irish a 2-0 lead in the match.

Taking on Providence on Sun., Nov. 5, she continued her hot hitting with 14 kills on 20 attempts without committing and error, while also having five digs, an ace and a block.

Bomhack becomes the third Irish player to earn player of the week accolades from the BIG EAST. Senior setter Denise Boylan earned the honor on Sept. 4 and senior outside hitter Christi Girton was a double-award winner on Sept. 25 and Oct. 2.

Kreher Asserting Herself: Junior opposite Kristy Kreher has asserted herself as one of the top players in the BIG EAST conference and the nation in 2000. The Birmingham, Mich., native is second on the team in kills (356), second in digs (217) and attack attempts (739) while posting a .334 hitting percentage.

Kreher has six 20-plus kill matches this season, four of which came versus ranked teams (23 vs. #15 BYU, 21 vs. #16 Michigan State, 32 vs. #22 Loyola Marymount, 22 at Pittsburgh and 21 at Connecticut). She ranks third in the BIG EAST in both hitting percentage (.334) and seventh kills per game (4.19).

The numbers keep stacking up for the Irish power hitter. Her 32 kills against in the four-game match vs. #22 Loyola Marymount set a school record and she also posted a career-best 27 digs in the contest. In 16 matches this season, she has posted a hitting percentage over .320, including a .565 mark at Michigan, a .579 mark at West Virginia and a .591 mark versus Saint Louis.

Girton On a Hot Streak: Outside Hitter Christi Girton has smacked double-digit kills in 19 of the team’s 28 matches in 2000. She is also riding a seven-match streak of posting double-digit kills, dating back to the Oct. 28 match at St. John’s. That streak ranks is among the top 10 of all time (Angie Harris posted 17 matches with double-digit kills in ’97).

Girton has jumped to fourth in the BIG EAST in kills per game (4.40) during her streak.

Girton Named Co-BIG EAST Player of the Week Two Consecutive Times In 2000: For the second time in as many weeks on Oct. 2, Christi Girton was named Co-BIG EAST Player of the Week. She led the team in kills in both BIG EAST match victories over the weekend of Sept. 29, to Oct. 1. Against Villanova, Girton had eight kills on 10 attempts with one error (.700), playing in just two games against the Wildcats. She also led the Irish in kills with 16 against Georgetown, adding nine digs and four blocks. Girton ended up hitting .354 in the two matches this week with 24 total kills (4.8 per game).

Girton had previously been named the Co-BIG EAST Player of the Week for her performance against Loyola Marymount, Wyoming and Colorado State, Sept. 21-23. In the three matches that week, Girton tallied 49 kills (5.44 per game), 34 digs (3.77 per game) and a .318 hitting percentage. She notched 23 kills in Notre Dame’s upset win over #22 Loyola Marymount. In the Irish sweep of Wyoming, she played in only two games recording 10 kills and five digs. She also earned a spot on the Golden Dome Invitational All-Tournament Team with her solid play.

Girton becomes the second Irish player to earn player of the week honors this season. Denise Boylan was given the honor on Sept. 4.

Head Coach Debbie Brown: Now entering her 10th season as head coach, Debbie Brown has led the Notre Dame volleyball team to victory in nearly 75 percent of its matches, going 248-85 (.745) since she joined the program in 1991. That success came after six years as head coach at Arizona State (1983-88), giving her a 364-168 record over 15 seasons.

Brown has coached teams that have qualified for the NCAA tournament 13 times and have won nine conference championships. The Irish have won five of six regular-season conference titles since they began BIG EAST play in 1995 and also have won four of five BIG EAST tournament titles (the Irish will enter the 2000 BIG EAST tournament with the top seed). An NCAA berth at the end of the 2000 season would give Brown her 14th consecutive post-season coaching opportunity.

Milestone: With her 16-kill effort against Georgetown on Oct. 1, senior Christi Girton surpassed the 1,000-kill plateau for her career. Girton currently has 1,172 career kills. She becomes the 11th Irish player to surpass 1,000 kills in a career.

The Muncie, Ind., native also has two matches this season where she has posted 30 or more kills. She set a then career-mark with 30 kills at Pittsburgh, then broke the record two weeks later at Connecticut with 31 kills.

Boylan Earns Player of the Week Honors: Senior setter Denise Boylan was named the BIG EAST Player of the Week on Monday, Sept. 4, for her performance during the Shamrock Invitational (Sept. 1-3). She led the team to three victories, including a come-from-behind upset over #15 BYU. Boylan’s statistics over the course of the Shamrock tournament: 136 assists (12.36 apg), 27 digs, 10 blocks, 10 kills and five aces.

Preseason Honors: Notre Dame senior setter Denise Boylan was chosen as the BIG EAST preseason player of the year on Aug. 8. Boylan earned first-team all-BIG EAST honors in 1999 after leading the Irish with 1,132 assists and 35 aces. Her career marks of 3,291 assists and 11.84 assist per game average are both second in school history.

Boylan was joined on the preseason all-BIG EAST team by fellow senior Christi Girton. Girton had previously earned second team all-BIG EAST accolades after the 1998 and 1999 seasons. She led the team in kills (333) and digs (201) last season and ranks 10th on the career hitting percentage list with a .254 mark.

Top Hitters Return: Even after the loss of Mary Leffers, the top career percentage hitter in school history, Notre Dame boasts two of its top all-time ball strikers on its 2000 roster.

Kristy Kreher put together one of the best hitting percentage seasons ever in 1999, recording 272 kills on 592 attempts with only 85 errors (.316 percentage). Kreher has moved up the career charts as well, ranking second in hitting percentage with a .294 mark entering the 2000 season. In 27 matches this season, she has a .334 percentage (356 kills, 109 errors on 739 attempts).

Senior Christi Girton also had an impressive 1999 season with 333 kills and just 111 errors for a .302 mark, which is tied for the 10th-best season mark in Irish history. Girton boasts a .288 percentage in 2000 (370 kills, 137 errors on 809 attempts).

A Highly-Rated Group of Freshmen: The class of 2004 that features Kim Fletcher, Jessica Kinder, Kristen Kinder (Fresno, Calif.), Katie Neff and Christa Moen (San Antonio, Texas) was ranked the ninth-best recruiting class in the nation by Volleyball Magazine. Fletcher and Kristen Kinder were members of Volleyball Magazine’s “Fab 50” list of the top senior high school volleyball players in the country.

Freshmen Contribute Throughout the Season: The 2000 freshmen class has made some significant contributions throughout the 2000 season and have helped the Irish clinch the BIG EAST regular season title with an 11-0 conference record. Kim Fletcher ranks seventh on the team in kills with 89 and also has 36 blocks and 33 digs. Kristen Kinder has relieved starting setter Denise Boylan in 20 games this year and posted 142 assists (7.10 per game) with 39 digs and 18 kills.

Jessica Kinder possesses and imposing jump serve that has scored 12 aces this season. She also has 45 kills and 65 digs.

Katie Neff has seen her playing time and contribution rise in the past few weeks. Neff has played in 18 games and recorded 23 blocks (1.28 per game) while also tallying 25 kills.

A Record Number of Home Matches?: The Irish have already played 17 home matches in 2000 (posting a 13-4 record in the Joyce Center). Notre Dame has secured the first seed in the BIG EAST tournament (the top four teams in the conference will make up the tournament field) and will have an opportunity to play the most home matches in the program’s history, should they advance to the final match. Notre Dame played 18 home matches in 1992 and 1996.

Freshmen Connections: Four of the five Notre Dame freshmen enjoy two different bonds. Jessica and Kristen Kinder will be the first pair of twins to take the court for the Irish. Classmates Katie Neff and Kim Fletcher are both from the St. Louis, Mo., area and played on the same club team, the St. Louis Elite.

Neff and Fletcher competed against hometown Saint Louis University when the Billikens visited the Joyce Center Nov. 7. Neff posted two kills an an ace in the match, while Fletcher posted five kills and a block.

The Kinders, who call Fresno, Calif., home, will get to return to the west coast when the Irish travel to USC, Nov. 24.

California Dreaming: When the Irish travel to Los Angeles, Calif., for their final regular season matchup versus USC, a number of players will get a chance to play in their home state. The Golden State is home to four players on the 2000 roster: Senior Adrienne Shimmel (Mission Viejo), sophomore Janie Alderete (Santa Clara) and freshmen Jessica and Kristen Kinder (Fresno).

Texas Representation: Texas boasts four players on the 2000 Irish roster. Seniors Jo Jameyson (Alvin) and Michelle Graham (Austin), junior Malinda Goralski (Missouri City) and freshman Christa Moen (San Antonio) will compete with California for state bragging rights in the Irish locker room. Assistant coach Lindsay Rosenthal (Austin) also hails from the Lone Star State.

Shimmel Off the Bench: Senior OH Adrienne Shimmel has provided quite a boost off the bench for the Irish this season. She set career-highs in kills (nine) and attack attempts (20) on Senior Night (vs. Saint Louis, Nov. 7). She also set a personal-best for blocks (three) in the Irish victory over Samford.

Shimmel’s 40 kills on the season has eclipsed her career total of 17 entering the 2000 campaign.

Toughest Schedule? Notre Dame has faced one of the toughest schedules in the nation this year. According to the AVCA/USA Today Nov. 13, rankings, the Irish faced two of the top teams in the nation, #1 Nebraska and #4 Colorado State, in the month of September. The Irish will also meet current-#3 USC on Nov. 24, in Los Angeles.

Six teams in the top 25 appear on the Notre Dame schedule this season. The Irish have knocked off #15 BYU (now ranked 13th) and #23 Loyola Marymount (now ranked 22nd).

Notre Dame In BIG EAST Competition: Since Notre Dame joined the BIG EAST Conference in 1995, it has won five regular-season conference titles in volleyball. Until Georgetown knocked the Irish off in the BIG EAST Tournament in 1999, Notre Dame had compiled a 10-0 record in the BIG EAST Tournament and won four titles. Current Irish OH Marcie Bomhack was named MVP of the BIG EAST Tournament in 1998.

Goralski Patrols the Net: The loss of 1999 BIG EAST Player of the Year and middle blocker Mary Leffers to graduation has been eased by the steady play of junior Malinda Goralski. Through 28 matches in 2000, Goralski has nearly surpassed her career totals over the last two years:

1998-99:Kills   Blocks  Hitting Percentage  Games Played110 77  .271    912000:Kills   Blocks  Hitting Percentage  Games Played222 118 .370    86

The Missouri, Texas, native had a career-high 15 kills in the five-game loss to #16 Michigan State on September 10. She matched that number of kills in the Irish upset of #22 Loyola Marymount.

Goralski, who leads the BIG EAST in hitting percentage with a .370 mark, followed her performance against LMU with a 10-kill match against Wyoming. She totaled those 10 kills on 12 attempts without committing an error for an amazing .833 hitting percentage. She also leads the team in blocks this season with 91 and ranks xxx in the BIG EAST in blocks per game (1.37).

AVCA Poll History: Since Debbie Brown took over the program in 1991, Notre Dame has made numerous appearances in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) poll. Notre Dame’s first ranking came in the preseason poll of 1992. Notre Dame’s highest ranking was seventh on Oct. 10, 1995, after an Irish eight-match win streak. The highest final ranking was 12th in 1994, when the Irish advanced to the final 16 teams in the NCAA tournament. Notre Dame is currently ranked 20th in the poll.

Dominance: In the past decade, only three BIG EAST schools have claimed the volleyball tournament crown. Pittsburgh dominated the late ’80s and early ’90s with seven straight titles, while Notre Dame won the next four, led by tournament MVPs Angie Harris (’95), Lindsay Treadwell (’96), Jaimie Lee (’97) and Marcie Bomhack (’98). Providence (’83, ’85, `87) and Georgetown (`99) are the only other schools to have won a BIG EAST championship.

Twenty Years in the Making: The Notre Dame volleyball team is celebrating its first 20 years of varsity status this season. One of the university’s first varsity sports for women founded in 1980, the volleyball program is one of the most successful in school history. The victory over Rutgers on Friday, Oct. 20, was the 600th Notre Dame volleyball match. Of the 608 matches the Irish have played, they have been victorious in 430 of them for an impressive .700 winning percentage.

Providence Recap: Notre Dame swept non-conference opponent Saint Louis (11-16) in three games (15-5, 15-5, 15-10), Tuesday, Nov. 7, at the Joyce Center. It was the last regular season home match for Irish seniors Denise Boylan, Christi Girton, Michelle Graham, Jo Jameyson and Adrienne Shimmel — and they went out in dominating style.

All the seniors played most of the match and led the Irish to an easy win over the Billikens. Girton had a match-high 15 kills and 11 digs. Shimmel set a career-high for kills in a match with nine and also had five digs. Boylan posted 40 assists in just over two games. Graham had a season high five digs while Jameyson had three digs and a kills.

Most notable, the seniors led Notre Dame to a 12-0 lead in the final game before being ceremoniously taken out of the game.

Junior Kristy Kreher also starred offensively for the Irish with 13 kills on 22 attempts without a hitting error for a .591 hitting percentage. Kreher also posted four blocks and six digs. Classmate Malinda Goralski had eight blocks and seven kills in the match.