Nov. 24, 2002
The University of Notre Dame volleyball team (23-7) brought its “A” game to the BIG EAST Championship this weekend and walked away with its seventh BIG EAST title in eight years with a convincing 3-1 victory (30-19, 31-29, 27-30, 30-19) over Miami (Fla.) 25-5 on Sunday afternoon.
The victory over the Hurricanes also provides a measure of redemption for the Irish, as Miami ended Notre Dame’s 36-match win streak over conference opponents just eight days ago. The win also provides Notre Dame with its 11th-straight NCAA Championship appearance, as the BIG EAST Championship title comes with an automatic bid for the NCAA tournament.
Notre Dame was led on offense by tournament Most Outstanding Player sophomore Emily Loomis with 21 kills on .462 hitting. Freshmen middle blockers Lauren Brewster and Lauren Kelbley added 15 kills a piece, while Brewster put up a double-double with 12 blocks. Notre Dame came began the match very strong with accurate passes that led to some solid kills. Kelbley put up two kills and an ace early in the game as the Irish built a 14-8 lead.
The Irish kept the pressure on as every offensive player put their name in the box score. Kristen Kinder turned a bad pass into kill, while Jessica Kinder added three kills over a four-point stretch to help build a 21-14 lead.
The Hurricanes would draw no closer the rest of the game, as Loomis posted five kills over the final stretch and give Notre Dame a 30-19 game-one victory. Loomis would end up with nine kills on 11 swing in the first game. As a team, Notre Dame hit an amazing .606 in game one.
“It was really big for us to come out and play well in game one after dropping the first game yesterday,” head coach Debbie Brown said after the game.
“It was a confidence boost for the team. To hit .600 in one game is amazing. We were really on.”
The momentum from the game one victory carried Notre Dame early in game two. The Irish jumped out to a 6-2 lead behind two kills each from Brewster and Loomis.
Miami’s player of the year Valeria Tipiana got going in game two, contributing two kills and an ace to bring her team within three points at 11-8, but Notre Dame jumped back ahead with a block and two kills from Katie Neff to maintain control of game two. After Neff scalded a kill down the line to put the Irish up 21-14, Miami was forced to call its second timeout.
The Hurricanes would rally to make a final run in game two. Notre Dame helped Miami out with an attack, service and setting error, in addition to two kills from the Hurricanes to cut the Irish lead down to 23-20 and force a timeout.
Notre Dame stopped the Hurricane streak with a kill down the middle from Kelbley, but Kelbley’s next attempt went wide. Miami’s Elizabeth Tyson came through with two kills to cut into the lead even more (26-24), but Notre Dame’s defense at the net would push them through to a game victory. Loomis combined on a block with Brewster to make the score 28-24. Miami went to Tipiana on the next play, but Loomis made a great solo block to put Notre Dame at game point.
Determined not to fall down 2-0, Miami staged another mini-rally. Three kills from the Hurricanes suddenly tied the game at 29-29, but the Irish block came through when they needed it most. Neff solo blocked Tyson to put Notre Dame up one point, then Kristen Kinder and Kelbley stuffed Tipiana on the final Miami attempt to grab the 31-29 game victory.
“The blocking was huge at the end of game two,” Brown said.
“To get 10 blocks in a game – that is another amazing statistic.”
Both team’s hitting fell off in game two, as Notre Dame followed up the .606 in game one with a .170 mark. Miami continued to struggle with its hitting, as it managed just a .082 number in the second game. The Irish defense also was controlling BIG EAST Player of the Year Tipiana, who at the break had just three kills on -.125 hitting.
With two of the top teams in the conference competing against each other, game three seemed destined to be a tight contest. Neither team was able to build more than a three point lead until Miami inched ahead 18-15. Notre Dame cut into the lead behind a Loomis kill at 18-17, but the Hurricanes burst ahead with three straight kills from three different players. The Irish offense was starting to lose a bit of momentum, but the Notre Dame passing started to come together again. A kill from Brewster and Jessica Kinder forced a timeout with Miami ahead 23-20.
After the timeout, Miami stuffed Kelbley to gain a four-point lead before the Irish would rally. A kill from Jessica Kinder on a roll shot, followed by a Miami attack error and a Notre Dame block made the score 24-23 in favor of the Hurricanes.
Both teams battled back and forth the rest of the way, but Notre Dame was unable to overcome the slim Miami lead. A kill from UM’s Gamarra and Tipiana provided a 30-27 game victory.
Notre Dame began game four in dominating form, led by junior opposite Katie Neff. Neff provided two kills and teamed with Brewster on two blocks to put the Irish up 6-0 and force Miami to call an early timeout.
The short break did little to curb Notre Dame’s momentum. Neff and Brewster continued to lead the Irish offensive explosion, as Neff added another kill and block while Brewster came through with a kill and ace ace. Suddenly, the Notre Dame advantage was 12-2.
The Irish scoring streak hit a snag midway through the game, however. The team’s passing could not find its rhythm and the Notre Dame lead was cut to 20-12. After a timeout, Notre Dame would not allow the Hurricanes to get any closer. Two kills and a block from Brewster down the stretch was followed by back to back kills from Kelbley and Loomis to close out the match and provide Notre Dame with its seventh BIG EAST Championship and third in a row.