June 11, 2004
A dozen teams earning berths to last year’s NCAA Championship and a trio of teams that have combined to win six of the last 11 national titles highlight the 2004 University of Notre Dame women’s volleyball team’s schedule, announced recently. The Irish will begin their 25th season of varsity competition with a four-match homestand from Sept. 1-7 that features the season opener against Loyola University Chicago and a pair of contests against perennial power Nebraska (Sept. 3 and 4).
Notre Dame will take on three of the last five teams to win national championships. In addition to the Cornhuskers (national champions in 1995 and 2000), the Irish will face two-time defending NCAA champion USC, alma mater of Notre Dame head coach Debbie Brown, on Sept. 18 in Columbia, S.C., as well as three-time national champ (1989, ’93, ’98) Long Beach State on Nov. 27 on the 49ers’ home floor.
Notre Dame’s home slate will feature 11 contests, matching the ’98 schedule for the fewest played in the Joyce Center in the last 13 seasons. Among the late-season highlights will be the Irish playing host to BIG EAST tournament champion and regular-season co-champion Pittsburgh on Nov. 12 at 4 p.m. (EST) in a contest to be played directly before the pep rally for the matchup between the schools in football the following day.
After the season-opening stretch, which ends on Sept. 7 against Valparaiso, an NCAA qualifier as the Mid-Continent Conference champions in ’03, the Irish will play 10 consecutive road matches before returning home on Oct. 13 against Illinois State. The first BIG EAST Conference foe to invade the Joyce Center will be St. John’s on Oct. 24, and the Red Storm will be followed by Connecticut (Nov. 5), Boston College (Nov. 7), Pittsburgh, and West Virginia (Nov. 14). The final home match of ’04 will be on Nov. 16 against Northern Iowa, which finished last year ranked 18th in the nation.
Twelve of Notre Dame’s 17 non-conference matches will be against NCAA participants from a year ago, including half of the 16 road matches. The Irish will play in a trio of in-season tournaments, first going to San Luis Obispo, Calif. from Sept. 10-11 for the Cal Poly Invitational, in which they will play Fresno State on the opening day before taking on ’03 Big Sky champion Sacramento State and the host Mustangs, coached by Steve Schlick, who was formerly an assistant under Brown at Arizona State (1987-90) and Notre Dame (1991-95).
The following weekend will see the Irish in Columbia, S.C. for the USC Invitational, in which they will face Michigan State (Sept. 17), Southern California, and host South Carolina (Sept. 19). Notre Dame and the Spartans – led by Brown’s former collegiate coach, Chuck Erbe – met in the NCAA tournament in both 2001 and ’02. As Irish mentor, Brown is 1-3 against her alma mater, with Notre Dame falling in five games in the most recent meeting, in 2000.
In the weekend between the BIG EAST tournament and the NCAAs, Notre Dame will go to Long Beach, Calif. to face UC Irvine (Nov. 26) and Long Beach State.
The Irish also will have non-conference matches on the road against Michigan (Sept. 28), BYU (Oct. 19), and Utah (ranked 23rd in final 2003 AVCA poll; Oct. 20), and will head to Syracuse (Oct. 2), Rutgers (Oct. 9), Seton Hall (Oct. 10), Georgetown (Oct. 30), and Villanova (Oct. 31) for BIG EAST matches.
The BIG EAST Championship is set for Nov. 20-21 in Pittsburgh, Pa. The Irish and Panthers shared last year’s regular-season crown (ND’s eighth) with 11-1 records, and Pittsburgh topped Notre Dame in the final of the league tournament. The Irish have won seven BIG EAST tournament titles in nine years in the conference.
The 2004 NCAA Championship begins Dec. 2-5 with first- and second-round action on campus sites, continues Dec. 10-11 with regional action in four cities (Louisville, Ky.; Minneapolis, Minn.; Seattle, Wash.; and Green Bay, Wis.), and culminates with the semifinals on Dec. 16 and the final two days later in Long Beach, Calif. The Irish have earned bids to 13 consecutive NCAA tournaments.
Notre Dame will face three first-time opponents in 2004: Fresno State, Sacramento State, and UC Irvine. Additionally, the Irish will venture to Cal Poly and South Carolina for the first time in the history of the program.
This year’s Notre Dame squad returns nine monogram winners, including four of seven starters, from last year’s team that was 23-7, won a share of the BIG EAST title, and earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Championship. The Irish, who won 14 straight matches for the second-longest winning streak in school history, finished 24th in the AVCA rankings after peaking at 12th.
Tickets for all 2004 Irish home matches are available via the Notre Dame ticket office at (574) 631-7356.
Once again, Notre Dame’s official athletic website will be the ideal place to follow Irish volleyball when fans are unable to be at the Joyce Center. Live stats for all home contests, as well as live audio broadcasts of selected matches in the Joyce Center will be available at www.und.com.