Sept. 29, 2002
It wasn’t the easiest pair of BIG EAST Conference victories for the University of Notre Dame volleyball team (11-3, 2-0), but the Irish survived two strong efforts from Connecticut on Friday and St. John’s on Sunday to begin the conference season 2-0 and push their BIG EAST winning streak to 29 matches.
Sunday’s four-game victory (30-26, 25-30, 30-20, 31-29) over St. John’s (12-8, 1-1) featured a blocking clinic by the Fighting Irish. The final team block tally ended up at 22 blocks for Notre Dame, led by freshman Lauren Kelbley with 12.
On the offensive side for Notre Dame, Emily Loomis enjoyed her fifth-straight match with double-digit kills, hitting for 20 against the Red Storm. Loomis also has posted more than 20 kills in four of the last five matches.
Even though the strong front line of Loomis (six blocks in the match), Kelbley (12), Lauren Brewster (eight), Katie Neff (five) and Kim Fletcher (three) controlled the first game at the net, St. John’s came back strong in game two to earn a 30-25 victory.
Game three remained close until Notre Dame transformed a 14-14 tie into a 20-16 lead behind three team blocks and a kill from Kelbley. The Red Storm was not able to close the gap for the rest of the game, while Notre Dame scored nine consecutive points to end the game and jump ahead 2-1 in the match.
Whatever momentum Notre Dame gained from their burst to end game three, it was lost in the three minutes between games three and four. St. John’s came out to jump ahead 7-1 in the fourth, as the Irish passing started to break down.
Head coach Debbie Brown called a timeout to settle her team down and Notre Dame slowly started cutting into St. John’s lead. Two kills from Jessica Kinder and a kill a piece from Loomis, Kinder and Kelbley tied the game at 12-12.
The score remained close throughout the rest of game four. St. John’s seemed determined to force a fifth game but, with the score tied at 29-29, Kelbley and Loomis scored back-to-back kills to end the match.
A crucial point of Notre Dame’s 2002 schedule begins next weekend at Rutgers (Oct. 5) and Seton Hall (Oct. 6). The Irish will not play at home again until Oct. 25, taking on the Scarlet Knights, Pirates, Georgetown, Villanova and Hawaii twice before their meeting with Pittsburgh on Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. in the Joyce Center.
WINNING STREAK UPDATES:
The Irish winning streaks after the victory over St. John’s:
31 consecutive victories at home
36 consecutive BIG EAST regular-season victories
29 consecutive BIG EAST victories (regular season and BIG EAST Championship)
45 consecutive BIG EAST victories at home (Notre Dame has never lost a conference match on the Joyce Center floor)