Nov. 14, 2003
#12 Notre Dame (21-3, 10-0) at West Virginia (6-19, 2-8) Saturday, Nov. 15, 11 a.m. * WVU Coliseum
#12 Notre Dame (21-3, 10-0) at Pittsburgh (20-4, 9-1) Sunday, Nov. 16, 2 p.m. * Fitzgerald Fieldhouse
No. 12 IRISH LOOK TO CLINCH REGULAR-SEASON BIG EAST TITLE THIS WEEKEND: The 12th-ranked University of Notre Dame volleyball team (21-3, 10-0) has an opportunity this weekend to win the regular-season BIG EAST championship for the eighth time in nine years since joining the conference. The Irish will need a pair of road victories to accomplish the feat, with matches at West Virginia (6-19, 2-8) on Saturday and at Pittsburgh (20-4, 9-1) on Sunday. The latter match is a battle between the top two teams in the conference.
SNAPSHOT OF THE IRISH: Notre Dame’s women’s volleyball program has experienced a wealth of success since the arrival of head coach Debbie Brown in 1991. In her 12+ seasons, Brown has guided Notre Dame to a winning record every year (and 20+ wins in every year but one), compiling a 321-107 (.750) mark. The Irish have earned 11 consecutive berths to the NCAA Championship, including a ’93 quarterfinal finish and three trips to the round of 16 (1994, ’95, and ’97). Since joining the BIG EAST Conference in ’95, Notre Dame has dominated the league, winning seven regular-season and seven tournament titles in eight years. Overall, the Irish are 97-4 in regular-season BIG EAST play and 16-1 in conference tournament action. Notre Dame is 56-0 in BIG EAST matches in the Joyce Center.
The 2003 Irish team returned 12 monogram winners and six starters from last year’s squad that was 24-8 and earned the No. 16 seed in the NCAA Championship, playing host to first- and second-round play. The Irish also finished second in the nation in blocks per game (3.66) with all the players responsible for that number returning to the fold. This season Notre Dame leads the nation in blocking at 3.72 per game, with the second-best team in Division I, Cornell, at 3.51 heading into last week.
After playing the first 10 matches with a 6-2 rotation, the Irish have returned to their traditional 5-1 offense. Senior S Kristen Kinder (the ’01 BIG EAST Setter of the Year) orchestrates the Notre Dame attack for the third consecutive season, having helped the Irish to a 67-18 (.788) record as a starter. On the right side, junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis, the ’02 BIG EAST Championship Most Outstanding Player and a preseason all-conference selection, leads the Irish in kills for the second straight season. She already has set two school records this year: most kills in a match without an error (24, 9/9 vs. Valparaiso) and consecutive matches with 10+ kills (21). The middle is patrolled by a pair of sophomores named Lauren having outstanding seasons. MB Lauren Kelbley, the ’02 BIG EAST and AVCA Northeast Region Rookie of the Year, and MB Lauren Brewster, who set the Irish record for blocks assists (161) in a season in ’02, return after stepping in immediately as freshman starters. They have combined to win five BIG EAST Player of the Week awards this season (Kelbley-two, Brewster-three), while Brewster is second in the nation in individual blocking (1.76) and is tops on the team in hitting (.367). On the left side, OH Jessica Kinder, twin sister of Kristen, is one of the hardest hitters and also one of the top defensive players on the team. She set a school record for digs in a three-game match (28) on Sept. 9 vs. Valparaiso. A pair of seniors, OPP Katie Neff and OPP/OH Kim Fletcher, also have been strong presences on the front row at times. L/OH Meg Henican is now the starting libero after playing on the left side in the 6-2. DS/L Danielle Herndon, the lone freshman on the Irish, started the season at libero, but now is a back-row sub.
LAST TIME ON THE COURT: Notre Dame took early leads of at least five points in every game but saw its 14-match winning streak snapped in a 3-1 (30-23, 30-28, 26-30, 30-26) decision at #14 Northern Iowa Tuesday evening. The Panthers (22-4) provided a series of late-game surges to extend their home winning streak to 69 matches, the second-longest in NCAA history. Northern Iowa used a sellout crowd of 2,052 to finish strong in each of the games it won. The Panthers ended their victorious games with runs of 8-1, 3-1, and 5-1, respectively, with all of those stretches coming immediately after the game score was tied.
Notre Dame had trouble offensively, hitting just .185 on the night. Sophomore MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) was solid, with 14 kills on .385 hitting to go along with nine blocks, barely missing a double-double. Junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) added 13 kills and eight digs, while sophomore MB Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) had 11 kills. Senior OPP Katie Neff (St. Louis, Mo./Cor Jesu Academy) hit well, with eight kills and only two errors, while her classmate, OH Jessica Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) also had eight kills. Senior co-captain S Kristen Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) was an effective offensive weapon, as well, with six kills on .333 hitting.
Sophomore L/OH Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.) was strong defensively, leading all players with 17 digs. Northern Iowa won a battle of two of the top three blocking teams in the country. The Panthers had 15 blocks, while Notre Dame finished with 12.5. UNI was the first team to outblock the Irish this season.
IRISH REMAIN 12TH IN NATIONAL RANKINGS: After wins over the only two BIG EAST teams to have defeated the Irish in league play in the last five years, Notre Dame remained 12th in this week’s USA Today/AVCA Division I Coaches Top 25. The ranking is the highest for Notre Dame since Sept. 30, 1996, when it was also 12th. A week ago, the Irish were ranked 10th by Volleyball magazine, 12th by RichKern.com, and 16th in the RKPI rankings, which are designed to emulate the NCAA’s RPI rankings.
Three ’03 Irish opponents were listed among the top 15 in this week’s AVCA top 25. Pepperdine (L, 1-3) leads the way at fourth, while Stanford (Nov. 29, away) is seventh, and Northern Iowa (L, 1-3) is 14th. Arizona (W, 3-1) and Utah (W, 3-2) are receiving votes, but are not listed in the top 25.
IRISH OFF TO SECOND-BEST START IN SCHOOL HISTORY: Despite Notre Dame’s loss on Tuesday, the Irish are still off to the second-best start through 24 matches in school history. Notre Dame’s 21-3 record is second only to that of the 1994 team, which was 22-2 en route to a 33-4 final record and a berth in the round of 16 of the NCAA Championship.
IRISH MAINTAIN NATIONAL LEAD IN BLOCKING, BREWSTER SECOND: Notre Dame continued to hold a healthy lead nationally among Division I teams in blocking last week, while sophomore MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) slipped out of the national lead into second place among individual blocking leaders. Heading into the week, the Irish were averaging 3.72 blocks per game this season, with Cornell, the nation’s second-best team, at 3.51. Brewster’s average fell to 1.76 last week, allowing Valparaiso’s Liz Mikos an opportunity to take over the lead, with an average of 1.82.
Notre Dame has had three consecutive subpar blocking performances, averaging just 2.79 blocks per game (33.5 blocks, 12 games). Prior to last weekend, the Irish were averaging 4.89 blocks per game over their previous six matches (93 blocks, 19 games). Brewster is averaging 1.61 blocks over the last five matches (29 blocks, 18 games) after putting up 2.50 per game over the previous five contests (40 blocks, 16 games).
A year ago, Notre Dame finished second nationally in blocking with a school-record average of 3.66, while Brewster was fourth at 1.68.
Kristen Kinder NAMED BIG EAST PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Senior co-captain Kristen Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) was named the BIG EAST Conference Player of the Week on Monday after leading the Irish to a pair of victories last weekend. She set Notre Dame to a .305 hitting percentage in beating the only two teams to have downed the Irish in league play over the last five years, while averaging 14.00 assists per game and adding 13 kills on .333 hitting. On Friday vs. Virginia Tech, Kinder had a career-high 68 assists, the most for an Irish player since Denise Boylan had 86 on Oct. 12, 2000. In Sunday’s match against Miami, Kinder had 44 assists (14.67 per game), while adding six kills on .455 hitting. It marked the second time Kinder had been honored as the league player of the week, also copping the distinction on Nov. 12, 2001.
NOTRE DAME WINNING STREAK SNAPPED AT 14: Tuesday’s loss snapped a 14-match winning streak for the Irish, which stretched between 3-1 losses at home against South Carolina on Sept. 14 and at Northern Iowa on Nov. 11. The winning streak was the second-longest in the 24-year history of Notre Dame varsity volleyball and the longest under 13-year head coach Debbie Brown. The longest winning streak in school history was 17 matches in 1986. Over the streak, Notre Dame won 42 of 48 games, surrendering one each to Purdue, Villanova, Connecticut, and North Carolina, as well as two to Virginia Tech.
In the Brown era, the Irish have had 29 different winning streaks of five matches or more, winning five in a row seven times, six straight four times, seven in a row three times, eight straight four times, nine in a row six times, 10 straight once, 11 in a row twice, and 12 straight once, and 14 in a row once.
Notre Dame also was just two shy of a pair of other school records before losing to UNI. The Irish had won eight in a row away from home and six straight on opponents’ home courts.
CLASS OF THE CONFERENCE: Since Notre Dame joined the BIG EAST Conference in 1995, the Irish have experienced incredible success in league play. Overall, Notre Dame is 97-4 in conference regular-season matches and 16-1 in the BIG EAST Championship. In eight seasons, the Irish have won seven regular-season titles and seven tournament titles. Notre Dame is 56-0 at home in BIG EAST matches.
This season, the Irish are again alone atop the conference, having already clinched a berth in the four-team BIG EAST Championship (Nov. 22-23 in the Joyce Center). Pittsburgh (20-4, 9-1) and Miami (21-8, 8-3) are second and third, having also clinched spots in the league tournament. The final berth is up for grabs, with Virginia Tech (13-13, 7-4), St. John’s (24-8, 6-4), and Villanova (12-13, 6-4) battling for it.
GOOD START: Notre Dame opened BIG EAST Conference play 10-0 for the eighth time in nine years since joining the league in 1995. The Irish have posted six undefeated conference seasons and also started last year 11-0 in BIG EAST matches (before finishing 11-2). The only year Notre Dame did not win at least its first 11 league matches was 1998, when the Irish lost at Connecticut in their third conference match of the year.
PACKED HOUSE: Northern Iowa’s sellout crowd of 2,052 on Tuesday marked the most fans Notre Dame had played in front of in a road contest since spring break of last season, when the Irish traveled to Hawaii for a pair of matches against the Rainbows. Attendance for those tilts was 6,501 and 6,502.
TOP-15 BATTLE: Tuesday’s match marked the first time since Sept. 13, 1996 that Notre Dame had been involved in a match between teams both ranked among the top 15 in the AVCA poll. On that occasion, #5 Penn State rallied from a game-one loss for a 3-1 victory over #11 Notre Dame in the Mizuno USA Cup in Chicago.
The Irish faced a team ranked in the national top 25 for the third time this season. Notre Dame opened the season against #10 Arizona (W, 3-1) and #5 Pepperdine (L, 3-1), but then played 21 matches against unranked foes.
PACKING THEM IN: A crowd of 8,643 watched Notre Dame outlast Virginia Tech 3-2 last Friday, setting a new Joyce Center attendance record for volleyball by more than 5,000. It was the fourth-largest crowd for a collegiate volleyball match this season. The previous mark was 3,351 on Nov. 1, 2002 vs. Providence. Both matches were played immediately before Irish football pep rallies.
On Sunday, 2,715 packed the Joyce to watch the Irish beat Miami 3-0 in a match televised by College Sports Television. It was the largest volleyball crowd in the building for a match not played before a football pep rally.
For the weekend, a total of 11,358 watched Notre Dame volleyball, pushing the Irish season attendance to 21,302, a new all-time high. The Irish also are on pace to set a new average attendance mark, currently welcoming 1,639 fans per match. A year ago, Notre Dame averaged 1,064, which was the highest in the program’s history to that point. The Irish rank ninth nationally in total attendance this season and 14th in average per match.
OCTOBER FEST: Notre Dame posted a perfect 8-0 record in the month of October, marking the first-ever perfect record in a full month of play in the 24-year history of the program. The Irish, who took 24 of 26 games last month, have won 11 consecutive October matches, dating back to last year. Over the last four-plus years, Notre Dame is 34-5 (.872) in October.
Six times before have the Irish gone undefeated in a month featuring a limited schedule — never one with more than four matches in it. Notre Dame went unbeaten in August in 1987 (1-0), ’91 (1-0), ’96 (3-0), 2001 (1-0) and ’02 (2-0), as well as posting an undefeated November (4-0) in 1982.
GOING THE DISTANCE: Notre Dame’s win against Virginia Tech on Friday was its third in as many five-game matches this season. The Irish have never gone undefeated in five-game matches in a campaign, with their best mark a 5-1 record in 1992. Previously this season, Notre Dame had 3-2 wins over Houston (15-11 in the fifth) in the Longhorn Classic in Austin, Texas, and Utah (15-12 in the fifth) at home in the Shamrock Invitational.
Friday marked the first time ever that Notre Dame was stretched to five games in a home BIG EAST contest. The Irish are 56-0 at home against league foes since joining the conference in 1995.
CAREER NIGHTS: A number of Irish players posted career bests in last Friday’s 3-2 triumph against Virginia Tech. Senior co-captain S Kristen Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) had a career-high 68 assists in setting Notre Dame to a .291 attack percentage. Her assist total was one better than her performance against Pepperdine last season and marked the most assists for an Irish player since Denise Boylan had 86 in four games against Pittsburgh on Oct. 8, 2000.
The two most effective hitters on Friday, sophomores MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) and MB Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.), each had 22 kills. It was Brewster’s top career total, besting a 20-kill performance at North Carolina last month, while it marked the second time Kelbley hit for 22 kills in her career (also against Houston on Sept. 5 of this season).
Junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) set her career high in digs for the second time this year. After posting 17 at Connecticut last month, she had 18 vs. the Hokies on Friday.
NOTRE DAME DEFENSE REGISTERS A FIRST IN PROGRAM’S HISTORY: The Notre Dame defense held its opponents to identical -.008 hitting percentages in consecutive matches two weeks ago. It was the first time in the 24-year history of the program that Irish opponents registered more errors than kills in back-to-back matches. On Oct. 29, Illinois State had 31 kills and 32 errors on 132 attempts. Two days later, Syracuse notched 32 kills and 33 errors on 129 swings on Sunday. Once before, in 1995, Notre Dame held opponents to negative percentages twice in a three-match span.
On the season, the Irish are on pace to set a new school record for lowest opponent hitting average, holding foes to a .148 percentage. Notre Dame has seen the opposition hit .190 or better just seven times in 23 matches. Irish opponents hit .070 or worse in four straight matches heading into last week, a combined percentage of .013. Irish foes have been under .090 on eight occasions in ’03.
In BIG EAST play, Notre Dame came into last week allowing a .125 attack percentage, by far the best defensive effort in the league. Pittsburgh was second, surrendering a .158 hitting percentage to opponents.
HOME, SWEET HOME: Playing in the Joyce Center has been a nightmare for opponents, especially since head coach Debbie Brown took over the Irish program in 1991. In that span, Notre Dame is 158-22 (.878) at home, including a school-record 36-match winning streak from 2000-02. In addition to holding a 56-0 all-time mark at home in BIG EAST matches, the Irish have had incredible success against unranked teams. In the Brown era, Notre Dame is 151-5 (.968) against unranked foes in the Joyce Center, with the losses coming to Santa Clara in 1993, Ball State in ’96, Oral Roberts in ’98, Michigan State in the ’02 NCAA tournament, and South Carolina in ’03. Each of the first three defeats came in five games. The loss to MSU snapped the 36-match overall home streak and a 52-match home winning streak against unranked teams.
TAKE 20: Notre Dame’s win last Friday improved its record to 20-2, marking its fifth consecutive 20-win season and the 12th time in 13 years under head coach Debbie Brown that the Irish have won at least 20 matches. The lone exception was an 18-13 campaign in 1998. Overall, this is the 15th season with 20+ victories in 24 years of varsity volleyball at Notre Dame.
LOOMIS BREAKS A PAIR OF SCHOOL RECORDS: Junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) has broken a pair of Irish records this season. In the Sept. 9 Valparaiso match, she set a Notre Dame record for most kills in a match without an error (24), while also falling just shy of the school record for kills in a three-game match. The previous mark for most kills without an error was 23, done by Jaimie Lee on September 8, 1995 at Indiana in a five-game victory.
Loomis also set a new record for consecutive matches with 10 or more kills, with a 21-match streak including the final six contests of 2002 and each of the first 15 this year. It was snapped when she had seven kills against Rutgers on Oct. 12. The longest streak of that kind prior to Loomis’ was a 17-match stretch by Angie Harris from Oct. 5 to Nov. 28 in 1997. Loomis’ 15-match streak this season was the third-longest in a single season.
BIG EAST PLAYER OF THE WEEK DOMINANCE: Notre Dame has dominated the BIG EAST Player of the Week award this season, gaining at least a share of it seven times in 11 weeks (while being idle once). Junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) won the initial honor of the season, on Sept. 1. Sophomore MB Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) was named a BIG EAST Co-Player of the Week Sept. 8 after her tournament-MVP performance in the Longhorn Classic and won the honor again on Sept. 29.
Sophomore MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) dominated the award in the month of October, winning it three times and missing out only on an idle week for the Irish. She gained the distinction Oct. 6, 13, and 27. Brewster is just the third Irish player ever to be named BIG EAST player of the week three times in a season. She joins Mary Leffers (1999) and Kristy Kreher (2001) in that group. She and St. John’s sophomore Jackie Ahlers are the only two players to win the award three times this season.
Most recently, senior co-captain Kristen Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) won the award on Nov. 10.
Jessica Kinder DIGS HER WAY TO SCHOOL RECORD: On Sept. 9 vs. Valparaiso, Notre Dame senior co-captain OH Jessica Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) set a Notre Dame record with 28 digs, the most ever by an Irish player in a three-game match. Her performance, which featured 10 digs in the first game, three in the second, and 15 in the final frame, bettered the previous record by three. Tracey Shelton scrambled for 25 digs in a three-game win over Butler on Oct. 25, 1989. Kinder’s 28 were the most in any length match for an Irish player since October 25, 1993, when Christy Peters had 31 at Arizona State in a four-game contest.
IRISH JUST MISS THREE SCHOOL BLOCKING RECORDS vs. B.C.: Notre Dame, the nation’s leader in the category, had one of its best blocking performances of the season against Boston College on Oct. 24, challenging a trio of school records. The Irish finished with 19 total blocks, just one shy of the high for a three-game match, set in 1998 at St. John’s. Sophomore MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.), who leads the nation in individual blocking, barely missed a pair of individual three-game match records. Her 11 blocks were just two shy of the program-best 13 by Mary Kay Waller in 1988 vs. Miami of Ohio. Brewster’s four solo blocks were one under the record of five, done three times, most recently by Waller in the ’88 Miami match.
REWRITING THE RECORD BOOKS: The 2003 season has produced a number of individual and team performances that rank among the best in the 24-year history of the Irish program.
On the team front, Notre Dame is currently on pace to break four school season records: record in five-game matches (3-0, 1.000; record is 5-1, .833 in ’92), block average (3.69; record is 3.66 in ’02), low opponent hitting percentage (.148; record is .151 in ’86), and low opponent ace average (0.92; record is 1.11 in ’96). The Irish also currently rank second all-time in winning percentage (.913; record is .892 in ’94), fourth in low opponent block average (1.90; record is 1.53 in ’86) and sixth in kill average (15.66; record is 17.43 in ’00) and home record (12-1, .923; record is 1.000 in ’94 & ’01).
Individually, a number of players are on pace to etch their names among the all-time leaders. Sophomore MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) is averaging 1.78 blocks per game, which currently ranks as the third-best season blocking average in history, just behind Mary Kay Waller’s school record of 1.79 in 1988. Brewster’s hitting percentage of .367 ranks as the sixth-best mark in a season, while sophomore MB Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) is 11th at .317. Two Irish players are posting dig numbers that are among the best eight defensive seasons ever. Sophomore L/OH Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.) is averaging 3.58 per game, currently ranking fourth, while senior co-captain OH Jessica Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) is at 3.26, which is eighth. Additionally, four Irish players — Henican, Jessica Kinder, senior co-captain S Kristen Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.), and junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) — have played in all 84 games this season. Only six players in history have played in every game in a season.
A number of Irish players also are moving up the all-time career lists in various categories. Kristen Kinder is third in assists (3,412) and fourth in assist average (10.80). Jessica Kinder ranks fourth in ace average (0.367), and total service aces (115) and 10th in dig average (2.39). Fellow senior OPP/OH Kim Fletcher (St. Louis, Mo./Nerinx Hall H.S.) is 11th in hitting percentage (.269), while classmate OPP Katie Neff (St. Louis, Mo./Cor Jesu Academy) is 10th in block average (0.99). Loomis is among the leaders in four categories: percentage of games played (3rd, .953), matches with 20+ kills (7th, 6), matches with 10+ kills (9th, 52), and block average (12th, 0.86). Brewster and Kelbley have reached minimums in three categories to qualify for the career leaders and figure to move into others as they play more matches. Brewster’s career block average of 1.73 currently is tops all-time, ahead of Waller’s school record of 1.68. Kelbley is fourth at 1.13. In hitting percentage, they rank second and third all-time, with Kelbley at .335 and Brewster at .330. Malinda Goralski (’01) holds the Irish record at .361. Kelbley is second in percentage of games played (.954), while Brewster is sixth (.928).
IRISH AMONG THE BIG EAST LEADERS: A number of Irish players were among the BIG EAST Conference statistical leaders heading into this week. Sophomore MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) led the league in blocks (1.76) and was second in hitting percentage (.366), and fifth in points (4.80). Sophomore MB Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) was second to Brewster in blocks (1.29), seventh in hitting percentage (.332), and 10th in points (4.46). Senior S Kristen Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) was eighth in assists (9.75), while senior OPP Katie Neff (St. Louis, Mo./Cor Jesu Academy) was sixth in blocks (1.10) and junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) was ninth (1.07). Sophomore OH Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.) was eighth in digs (3.55).
In the team statistics, Notre Dame led the conference, and the nation, in blocks (3.72) and was tops in the league in opponent hitting percentage (.145). The Irish were in the top five in three other categories: hitting percentage (2nd, .259), kills (4th, 15.69), and assists (4th, 13.9).
Notre Dame was dominating in the leaders counting only conference matches. The Irish were first in four of the seven categories and second in two others. Notre Dame led the BIG EAST in hitting percentage (.291), opponent hitting percentage (.125), kills (16.56), and blocks (4.2), holding sizeable leads in each category. Miami was second in kills (16.21) and hitting percentage (.240), while Conecticut was second in blocks (2.66) and Pittsburgh in opponent hitting (.158). The Irish were second in assists (15.06) and aces (1.56).
In the individual leaders in conference matches, Brewster was first in blocks (1.94) and hitting percentage (.411) and fifth in points (5.08). Loomis also was among the leaders in three categories: blocks (5th, 1.24), points (8th, 4.79), and kills (8th, 3.88). Kelbley was second to Brewster in blocks (1.38), while coming in fourth in hitting percentage (.345) and ninth in points (4.60). Kristen Kinder was second in assists (11.44), while Henican was fifth in digs (3.85), senior OH Jessica Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) was eighth in aces (0.29), and Neff was 10th in blocks (1.13).
PRESEASON BIG EAST FAVORITES: Once again Notre Dame was the favorite in the BIG EAST Conference. The Irish, who have captured seven regular-season and seven tournament crowns in their eight years in the league, garnered nine first-place votes and were chosen as the favorite in the preseason volleyball poll of conference head coaches. Miami gained four first-place votes and was picked second with 136 points. The teams will meet in the Joyce Center on Nov. 9 in a match televised by College Sports Television (CSTV) in its Sunday Night Spike national match-of-the-week package.
Two Irish players, junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) and sophomore MB Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.), were selected to the preseason all-BIG EAST team. Loomis was the Most Outstanding Player in the ’02 BIG EAST Championship, while Kelbley was the conference rookie of the year.
THE SERIES: Notre Dame and West Virginia will meet for the 11th time, with the Irish having taken all but one previous encounter. The teams played twice (1991 and ’94) prior to Notre Dame’s entrance into the BIG EAST in 1995. The lone Mountaineer win was a 15-3, 15-5, 15-7 victory in Morgantown, W. Va. in 1998. The Irish have won the other three matches at WVU. Notre Dame has won in four games in each of the last two seasons, while each of the previous six BIG EAST matches were decided in three.
Notre Dame and Pittsburgh will meet for the 20th time, with the Irish holding a 16-3 advantage and having won 15 in a row, dating back to 1992. The series began in 1984 and the Panthers won three of the first four meetings. The teams have played 12 times since the Irish joined the BIG EAST, including four times in the conference tournament and twice in the league title match (1995 & ’96). Pittsburgh will tie Valparaiso for most matches played against the Irish, with 20. Notre Dame won 3-1 last year and eight times in the last 13 matches. The squads played five-game matches in 1998 and ’99.
HEAD COACH Debbie Brown: Irish head coach Debbie Brown is in her 13th season at the helm of the Notre Dame program. She has led the Irish to a 321-107 (.750) mark, while holding a 438-190 (.699) overall record. Brown’s Notre Dame teams have earned 11 consecutive NCAA tournament berths, advancing to the quarterfinals in 1993 and the round of 16 in ’94, ’95, and ’97. Her squads have won 20 or more matches 12 times. An eight-time conference coach of the year (4 MCC, 3 BIG EAST, 1 Pac-10), she has coached four Irish players to All-America honors, while 20 have gained all-BIG EAST mention since 1995. The Irish also have claimed 11 regular-season conference titles (4 Midwestern Collegiate, 7 BIG EAST) and 11 league tournament crowns (4 MCC, 7 BIG EAST). The captain of the 1980 U.S. Olympic volleyball team after winning a pair of national championships and earning All-America honors twice playing at USC, Brown graduated from Arizona State in 1982 and coached her alma mater from 1983-88, helping the Sun Devils to five NCAA tournaments.
TALL TEAM: Only six teams in the nation have a taller average height than Notre Dame’s ’03 squad. The 14 Irish players have an average height of 6-0, which is bettered only by Illinois, Pacific, Pepperdine, Saint Louis, USC, and Texas. In addition, only eight players in Division I are taller than senior OPP Katie Neff’s (St. Louis, Mo./Cor Jesu Academy) 6-4 frame.
THE HARDER THEY FALL: Notre Dame’s season-opening 3-1 victory over #10 Arizona in the Four Points Sheraton Classic gave the Irish a top-10 upset in each of the last two seasons. On September 14, 2002, Notre Dame outlasted 10th-ranked Pepperdine in the championship match of the Golden Dome Invitational in the Joyce Center. The win over the Wildcats was the eighth in the program’s history over a top-10 opponent.
HAIL TO THE CHAMPIONS: Notre Dame’s championship in the Longhorn Classic marked the fourth consecutive season the Irish have come away with at least one in-season tournament title, but was the first for Notre Dame outside the Joyce Center since the 2000 Lady Seminole Classic. The Irish won the Shamrock Invitational in each of the last three seasons and also were victorious in the ’02 Golden Dome Invitational
AMAZING ACADEMICS: For the second year in a row, Notre Dame earned an American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Team Academic Award. The Irish, which had a team grade-point average of 3.348 during the 2002-03 year, were one of just four Division I teams to earn the Team Academic Award and also win at least one match in the ’02 NCAA Championship. The award honors teams that display excellence in the classroom by maintaining at least a 3.30 cumulative team GPA. Other than the Irish, only Kansas State, Nebraska, and Northern Iowa gained the Team Academic Award and advanced at least to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Leading the way academically for the Irish were a trio of veterans. Senior Kim Fletcher (St. Louis, Mo./Nerinx Hall H.S.) earned a 4.000 GPA in both semesters of the most recent academic year, while classmate Kristen Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) duplicated the feat in the fall and ’03 graduate Keara Coughlin posted a perfect GPA in her final semester. As a team, the Irish had a 3.438 GPA in the spring, the second-highest among Notre Dame’s 26 varsity squads.
“NOTRE DAME PRIMETIME” AIRING ON CSTV & WHME-TV: Among the new fall programming for College Sports Television (CSTV) is “Notre Dame Primetime,” a weekly one-hour show dedicated entirely to Notre Dame athletics. It airs on Sundays at 8:30 p.m. (EDT) and can now be seen in the South Bend area on Mondays at 7 p.m. (EST) on WHME-TV. A number of Irish volleyball personalities already have been featured on “Notre Dame Primetime,” including head coach Debbie Brown, OPP/OH Emily Loomis, OH Jessica Kinder, and MB Lauren Brewster. CSTV is currently available nationwide to more than 15 million cable and satellite homes. To find out where CSTV is available in your area, log on to www.CSTV.com, or call your local cable or satellite operator.
KEEPING UP WITH ND VOLLEYBALL: For the fastest results of Notre Dame volleyball matches, call the Notre Dame Sports Hotline at (574) 631-3000 and choose #5 and #1. The hotline provides schedules and result information for all 26 varsity sports and serves as a supplement to the match recaps and weekly releases provided on the official athletic website, www.und.com. The hotline is the first medium updated with results of each Notre Dame volleyball match.
Once again, www.und.com will be the best place for in-depth coverage of Irish volleyball. Live scoring of all home matches, as well as live internet broadcasts of eight contests available to College Sports Pass subscribers supplement the match previews and recaps.
In addition, media members and fans may be added to the sports information e-mail release list by contacting sports information assistant Bo Rottenborn at Rottenborn.firstname.lastname@example.org. All requests for story ideas, interview access, match credentials, and further information on Irish volleyball should similarly be directed to Rottenborn. Credential and interview requests should be made at least 24 hours in advance.