Oct. 25, 2002
The University of Notre Dame volleyball team (16-5, 7-0) won its 32nd straight match in the Joyce Center on Friday evening with a come-from-behind four-game victory (23-30, 30-28, 30-28, 30-13) over Pittsburgh (15-7, 5-2).
The Irish win strengthens their hold on first place in the BIG EAST Conference (Pitt was in second place behind Notre Dame) and continues the winning conference tradition in the Joyce Center. Notre Dame has won 32 straight matches at home, but the Irish also are on a streak of 46-straight wins against conference teams at home. In fact, Notre Dame has not lost on the Joyce Center floor to a BIG EAST team since they joined the conference in 1995.
Pittsburgh seemed determined to put a stop to all of Notre Dame’s winning streaks in Friday evening’s match. The Panthers came out focused and energetic, easily earning a game one victory 30-23. The Pitt offense was on fire, hitting for a .419 team mark in the first game while Notre Dame posted a pedestrian .211.
Early in game two, the Irish still could not find an answer to the Panther attack. Pittsburgh pushed out to a 5-1 lead before Notre Dame finally started to put together some point streaks. The Irish passing, which broke down in the first game, finally started getting the ball to all-BIG EAST setter Kristen Kinder in a position to run the offense.
Pittsburgh’s hitting accuracy also started to drop, allowing Notre Dame to hang around in game two until the hitters started to step up. With the score at 18-11 in favor of the visiting team, Notre Dame started to mount their comeback.
Jessica Kinder came up with two of her game high 14 kills and the Irish blocked two shots during a 7-1 run to tie the game at 19-19. After the team battled back and forth to a 24-24 stalemate, Notre Dame took control with two Lauren Kelbley kills. A Pittsburgh hitting error provided the winning point as Notre Dame tied the match 1-1 with a 30-28 game victory.
The score stayed close in game three until kills from Lauren Brewster and Katie Neff put Notre Dame up 14-9 and force a Pitt timeout. The Panthers came roaring back to tie the score at 18-18 and the teams would trade points for the rest of the game.
With the score at 28-28, Kelbley provided a kill down the middle to get the Irish on serve. Brewster and Kristen Kinder then rose up to stuff Pittsburgh’s Wendy Hatlestad and seize control of the match with another 30-28 game victory.
Notre Dame carried the momentum of the game three victory into the final contest and never looked back. The Irish began on a 7-2 run and eventually led the game 20-8 before both teams started to empty the bench.
The Irish will return to BIG EAST action on Sunday at 2 p.m. against West Virginia.
Jessica Kinder (who also had four aces) was one of three Irish players who posted a double-double in the match against Pittsburgh … Emily Loomis had 10 kills and 13 digs, while Kristen Kinder ended up with 45 assists and 12 digs … Notre Dame’s defensive specialists were solid, as libero Keara Coughlin tied for the team high with 13 digs, while Janie Alderete had 11 … Lauren Brewster led the Irish defensive effort at the net with 10 blocks, nine assists and one solo … the Irish, who entered the week leading the nation in blocking, ended up with 15 team blocks … Pittsburgh’s Carrie Norris and Kim Norris, along with Irish rookie Lauren Kelbley, played at the same high school (Hopewell-Loudon) in Fostoria, Ohio.