Nov. 17, 2001
The University of Notre Dame volleyball team (19-5, 12-0) advanced to its seventh consecutive BIG EAST Championship final match with a three game victory (30-20, 30-28, 30-27) over Connecticut (21-6, 9-3) in Pittsburgh, Pa., on Saturday afternoon. The Irish improved their overall BIG EAST Championship record to 13-1 with the victory and will be looking for its sixth tournament title in seven years on Sunday.
Senior co-captain Marcie Bomhack and sophomore middle blocker Kim Fletcher led the Irish to the match victory by scoring key points to put the closely contested gamea away. Bomhack accounted for 13 kills, five digs and three blocks in the match, while Fletcher caught fire late to post nine kills and four blocks. Recently named BIG EAST Player of the Year, senior middle blocker Malinda Goralski had an outstanding match as well – recording 12 kills on .600 hitting with three blocks.
“Marcie has been playing very well over the last few matches in addition to today’s performance,” Irish head coach Debbie Brown said after the match.
“She has really stepped it up. She is hitting the ball aggressively, but she is also playing very smart and using what the defense is giving her. Marcie had some key swings for us against Illinois State (last Wednesday, Nov. 14) and had some key swings for us tonight as well.”
Game one was a close contest early, until a four-point streak put Notre Dame ahead 10-5. Fletcher, Loomis and Kreher all contributed kills during the run and Christa Moen added an ace to force a Connecticut timeout.
After the timeout, Notre Dame kept the pressure on with a solo block and a kill by Goralski and pushed into a 12-5 lead. Bomhack would then ensure that the Irish lead prevailed throughout the rest of the game. The senior outside hitter would end up with five kills in the first game, including three in a four-point burst to give her team an eight-point lead. The Irish lead would build to as many as 10 points, including the final game score of 30-20.
Game two started out close, until the teams started to trade three-point scoring streaks. A Bomhack kill, a Fletcher kill and an Alderete ace gave the Irish a 6-4 lead, but UConn countered with a kill, block and Notre Dame attack error for a 7-6 lead.
The Irish quickly came back with another point string behind consecutive kills from Kreher, Bomhack and Kristen Kinder to build a 9-7 lead.
The trend would continue until the Huskies were able to post a crucial three-point burst to turn an 18-17 lead into a 21-17 advantage with a kill, block and ace. A UConn attack error ended the run and allowed Notre Dame answered back with a block from Goralski and Kinder and a solo block by Emily Loomis to cut the lead to one.
Kreher would eventually tie the game at 24-24 with a kill off a Huskie overpass, but UConn answered with a Laura Wooley kill and a Sarah Walton ace to jump ahead 26-24.
After a timeout, Notre Dame rallied once again behind Bomhack and Fletcher. After Kreher was denied twice at the net, she performed a perfect set across the court to Bomhack, who slammed down a kill to cut the lead to one. Bomhack and Fletcher then combined on a block to tie the score.
Notre Dame turned to Fletcher on the next play, and on a great tap set from Kinder, Fletcher gave the Irish their first lead since 9-7 with a kill.
The end of game two ended up as the Kim Fletcher show, as the Irish sophomore middle blocker performed a solo block to put the Irish at game point and eventually sealed the 30-28 victory with a kill down the line.
“We have been relying on Goralski and Kreher most of the year,” Brown said.
“Today, a number of different players stepped up for us, including Fletcher. It is that time of the year and we need everyone to pick it up.”
It was a dominating end to the game for the Irish. After the timeout when the Irish were trailing 26-24, Notre Dame outscored UConn 6-2 – including five straight points after the break without losing serve.
Carrying over the momentum from their game two victory, the Irish came out hot in game three. Behind three Loomis kills and a kill and solo block from Bomhack, Notre Dame jumped ahead 13-5 in the early moments of the third game.
Connecticut switched to its back up setter, Julie Erbez, and the change seemed to put the Irish defense off balance. Erbez paid immediate dividends for her team, recording two kills over a five-point streak to cut the Irish lead down to just one point at 15-14.
Once again, Bomhack and Fletcher answered the challenge for their team. Both Irish players posted back-to-back kills to put Notre Dame back on track. Fittingly, Bomhack put the match away with a kill down the line to secure a 30-27 game victory and 3-0 match win.
Notre Dame will face the winner of the Rutgers – Georgetown semifinal at noon on Sunday, Nov. 18, for the 2001 BIG EAST Championship.
Junior defensive specialist Janie Alderete continued her excellent play in the back row against UConn, ringing up 16 digs, and ace and an assist … Connecticut was able to hold Irish kill leader Kristy Kreher to just seven kills, but that allowed Emily Loomis to step up (six kills, including five in the final game and nine digs) to provide the Irish a spark … Notre Dame held Connecticut to .095 hitting, while the Irish managed a .209 mark, including .262 in game two.