Dec. 1, 2000
The University of Notre Dame volleyball team (26-6) advanced to the second round of the 2000 NCAA Tournament with a 3-0 victory (15-2, 15-12, 15-10) over Cincinnati (24-10) at St. John Arena in Columbus, Ohio, Friday evening. The Irish will meet the winner of the Ohio State – Ball State match, which was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m., local time.
Junior opposite Kristy Kreher’s (Birmingham, Mich.) 16 kills (on .556 hitting) was the top mark on the team and the Irish were led by the dependable ball control of senior setter Denise Boylan (Lisle, Ill.). Boylan registered 52 assists and 13 digs in the match while helping the Irish post a .347 hitting percentage. Boylan also helped diversify the Irish offense, as four Notre Dame hitters compiled double-digit kills in the match. Along with Kreher, senior Christi Girton (Muncie, Ind.) and juniors Marcie Bomhack (Waukesha, Wis.) and Malinda Goralski (Missouri City, Texas) had 13, 12, and 15 kills, respectively.
The Irish came out red hot in the first game of the match, jumping out to a 9-1 lead within a few minutes. Two kills from Girton, along with two blocks and a kill from Goralski contributed to the Notre Dame advantage. The two Bearcat points came on the only Irish hitting errors of the game, as Notre Dame posted a .533 hitting percentage in the game and earned an easy 15-2 victory.
“We played very strong in game one,” Irish head coach Debbie Brown said during her post game comments.
“They (Cincinnati) showed some different looks with their blocking and we were able to take advantage of it.”
Notre Dame seemed destined to coast through game two as well until the Bearcat offense woke up. The Irish jumped ahead 11-4, but Cincinnati’s Shauntel Miller heated up. After only managing two kills in the first game of the match, Miller smacked nine on 13 attempts in the second game to lead a furious Bearcat rally. Two Irish hitting errors contributed to a four-point run by Cinncinnati to cut the lead down to 11-8.
Bomhack temporarily stopped the Bearcat run with a kill and an ace to push the Irish ahead 13-8, but Cincinnati would not go quietly. Another series of kills from Miller cut the Notre Dame advantage to 13-12 and the Bearcats had the momentum on their side. After an Irish timeout, a kill by Bomhack helped Notre Dame gain the serve and Girton recorded her first ace of the match. After another exchange of serves, Keara Coughlin (Chicago, Ill.) subbed in and smacked her 26th ace of the season to win the game for Notre Dame and provide her team a 2-0 in the match.
A quick look at the statistics told the story of the second game. Cincinnati was able to hold the Irish offense to .284 hitting, while rebounding from its -.290 mark in the first game to hit .362 in the second.
The Bearcats continued their solid play in the third game of the match, building a 4-0 lead. Notre Dame would rally behind Kreher, who has a history of top performances in NCAA tournament games. Her 24 kills in both the Eastern Washington (1998) and Ohio State (1999) tournament matches are among the top five Irish performances in post season play history. As Notre Dame fell behind in game three, Brown knew that they had to set the ball towards the Irish opposite.
“Cincinnati played differently in games two and three,” Brown said.
“We had to step up and adjust. I thought we got stuck setting wide too much in game two. They (Cincinnati) had built some momentum and we needed to respond. I also thought we needed to set Kreher more, since we got away from doing that a bit in the second game.”
Kreher would respond, dominating game three with eight kills, three digs, two blocks and an ace.
“Tournament games just mean more than anything else,” Kreher said after the game.
“You know it is time to give that little extra push.”
Kreher’s push would lead the Irish back into the game, as Notre Dame rattled off 12 of the next 16 points in the game to build a 12-8 advantage. She also fittingly finished the match off with a kill to earn Notre Dame a 15-10 game victory and the right to move on to the second round.
“We are excited to be moving on,” Brown said.
“I think the team played well and this is the level of performance that we need at this time of the year.”