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Volleyball Looks For NCAA Automatic Bid At The BIG EAST Championship

Nov. 21, 2002

Complete Release in PDF Format, including updated player bios, a BIG EAST Championship history section and statistical breakdowns.
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2002 BIG EAST Championship

Fitzgerald Fieldhouse * Pittsburgh, Pa. * Nov. 23 & 24

Saturday, Nov. 23

#1 Notre Dame (21-7, 11-2) vs. #4 Connecticut (14-14, 9-4), 1 p.m.

#2 Virginia Tech (20-10, 10-3) vs. #3 Miami (24-4, 10-3), 3:30 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 24

Semifinal winners, 1 p.m.

Notre Dame pursues BIG EAST Championship this weekend:

The University of Notre Dame volleyball team (21-7, 11-2) begins the quest for its sixth BIG EAST Championship this weekend at the 2002 conference tournament in Pittsburgh, Pa., at Fitzgerald Fieldhouse. Since the Irish joined the BIG EAST Conference for the 1995 season, it has failed to win the league tournament just once – in 1999 when Georgetown defeated Notre Dame in the finals.

Notre Dame enters this weekend with the #1 seed after finishing the regular season with an 11-2 record. The last week of BIG EAST Conference action has added even more drama to the tournament, as #2 Virginia Tech and #3 Miami handed Notre Dame back-to-back conference losses on Nov. 15 & 17 for the first time since 1995. Miami’s victory on Nov. 15 ended a 36-match winning streak for Notre Dame over all conference opponents.

Connecticut earned the fourth seed in the tournament after tieing Pittsburgh in the standings, but advancing to the championship by virtue of its victory over the Panthers during the regular season. Notre Dame defeated Connecticut 3-1 on Sept. 27.

Notre Dame BIG EAST Championship history:

The Irish have appeared in each BIG EAST Championship tournament since they joined the conference in 1995. They lead all conference teams in winning percentage at the championship, compiling a 14-1 record (.933) in seven years. Notre Dame has claimed the team championship in 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000 and 2001 – its lone loss coming to Georgetown in the final match in 1999.

This season’s BIG EAST Championship is set for Fitzgerald Fieldhouse in Pittsburgh, Pa.. It is the eighth time that the University of Pittsburgh has hosted the tournament and the Irish have won the title three out of the four times in which it has participated in the championship at Fitzgerald Fieldhouse.

The 2002 season also marks the second straight year that Pittsburgh has hosted the tournament. Notre Dame defeated Georgetown in five games (30-22, 24-30, 27-30, 30-20, 15-11) last season in the final match to secure thier sixth BIG EAST Championship crown. Middle blocker Malinda Goralski was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.

Speaking of individual accolades, a Notre Dame player has captured the Most Outstanding Player award six times (each season the Irish have claimed the title). Angie Harris won the first award in 1995, followed by Lindsay Treadwell in ’96, Jaimie Lee in ’97, Marcie Bomhack in ’98, Denise Boylan in ’00 and Goralski just a year ago.

Before Notre Dame’s dominance of the BIG EAST Championship, Pittsburgh reigned supreme, winning seven straight titles from 1988-94. They also won titles in 1983, ’85 and ’87. Providence has three titles to its credit in 1983, ’85 and ’87. Georgetown is the only other school to win a title (’99).

Adding a special twist to this season’s tournament, Virginia Tech (in its second season of BIG EAST competition) and Miami (Fla.) (in just its first season of conference play) have qualified for the tournament – both teams making their first-ever appearance.

Notre Dame leads the nation in team block average:

Notre Dame has been the best blocking team in the nation this season, and the statistics released from the NCAA put the Irish number one in the nation as of Nov. 18. Notre Dame’s 3.69 blocks per game average leads the nation, ahead of Nebraska, Montana State, Stanford and Long Beach State.

Notre Dame has led the nation in block average most of the season, assuming first place with a 22-block effort against St. John’s on Sept. 29.

Irish win 20 matches for fourth season in a row:

Notre Dame’s 3-0 victory over Boston College on Sunday, Nov. 3, provided the Irish with their 20th victory of the season, marking the 2002 season as the fourth-straight in which head coach Debbie Brown’s team has posted at least 20 victories. In fact, Brown’s teams have reached 20 wins in all but one season since she took over the program in 1991.

Notre Dame won 20 matches in 1999, 20 in 2000 and 22 in 2001. The record for wins in the season is 33, reached in 1994 and 1986.

Irish finish unbeaten at home for the second straight season and just the fourth time in school history:

Two BIG EAST Conference victories over Providence and Boston College on Nov. 1 and 3 provided Notre Dame with its second consecutive undefeated season on the Joyce Center floor. The Irish will carry a 35-match win streak at home into the 2003 season.

The Irish posted a 12-0 record at home a year ago and improved that mark by one this season, finishing 13-0 in front of the Joyce Center crowd.

Notre Dame finished 17-0 at home in 1994 and 5-0 in 1982.

Brewster fifth in the nation in block average:

An exceptional week of defense at the net, which enabled Lauren Brewster to earn the BIG EAST rookie of the week award on Oct. 28, also moved the middle blocker up the national rankings in block average. Brewster was 12th as of Oct. 21, but her output during four matches from Oct. 21-26 moved her average to 1.64, which was fourth in the country as of Oct. 28.

The rookie from Brentwood, Tenn., has settled in at fifth in the nation in the latest statistical release from the NCAA, with a 1.66 average. She is behind Arkansas-Little Rock’s Ivana Kuzmic, Nebraska’s Amber Holmquist, Cal Poly’s Worthy Lien and Ana Schanze from Montana State.

Team gets back in the top 30 in the country for team hitting:

Led by all-star setter Kristen Kinder, the Irish have been steadily moving up the list of top hitting teams in the country. Notre Dame broke into the top 30 in team hitting percentage three weeks ago and ranks 28th in the country with a .263 team percentage as of Nov. 18.

Notre Dame vs. Connecticut series notes:

The Irish and Huskies will be meeting for the 13th time … Notre Dame holds a 12-1 advantage in the series, including a 3-1 victory this season in the Joyce Center on Sept. 27 … this is the second year in a row that Notre Dame and Connecticut will meet twice, as the teams also met in the semifinals of the BIG EAST Championship in 2001 … Notre Dame won that championship matchup in three games … in the 2002 meeting, Emily Loomis chalked up 20 kills on .356 hitting with 13 digs … Kim Fletcher added 11 kills off the bench … Jamie Hadenfeldt had a great match for UConn, putting up 23 kills and 15 digs … Notre Dame is 4-0 against Connecticut in BIG EAST Championship play.

Notre Dame vs. Miami series notes:

If the Irish and Hurricanes advance to the finals, it will be the second meeting between the two teams … this is Miami’s first season of BIG EAST Conference volleyball competition … Miami began its volleyball program in 1972, but dropped the program in 1982 before restarting it in 2001 … the Hurricanes finished 17-7 as an independent last season … Valeria Tipiana led the Hurricanes to an upset victory over the Irish on Friday, Nov. 15, with 28 kills (on .358 hitting) and 16 digs … she was named the BIG EAST Player of the Week on Monday, Nov. 18 … Miami began the season with a 15-match winning streak … their four losses this season have been to Georgetown, Florida International, Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh.

Notre Dame vs. Virginia Tech series notes:

If the Irish and Hokies advance to the final match, it will be the third meeting between the two teams … the series is tied 1-1, as in the last match between the two teams, Virginia Tech handed the Irish a 0-3 loss … Lauren Kelbley led Notre Dame with 15 kills on .609 hitting in the match, but Cheryl Stinson (14 kills), Ana Lang (16 kills) and Sarah Rogers (10 kills) were too much to overcome … the two teams met for the first time in 2001, Virginia Tech’s first year of BIG EAST Conference volleyball competition … this is Virginia Tech’s first appearance in the BIG EAST Championship.

Notre Dame ranked second in the Northeast Region:

Notre Dame is ranked second in the Northeast Region, according to the NCAA Division I women’s volleyball committee, after having been ranked first in the previous two releases of the poll.

The rankings were released on Oct. 22, then updated on Nov. 6 and Nov. 19. The regional rankings are a key consideration when the NCAA Division I women’s volleyball tournament pairings are announced. The winner of the BIG EAST Conference Championship will receive and automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Northeast Regional Ranking:

Nov. 6, 2002 (records are as of Nov. 3)

Northeast Region

1. Temple (23-6)

2. Notre Dame (21-7)

3. American (24-6)

4. Virginia Tech (20-10)

5. Miami, Fla. (24-4)

6. Dayton (22-6)

7. Penn (20-4)

8. New Hampshire (21-10)

9. George Washington (18-12)

10. Princeton (17-5)

Irish set a new standard for consecutive home victories in memorable fashion:

Notre Dame’s victory over #10 Pepperdine extended the Irish home court winning streak to 28 matches. Notre Dame has moved that total to 35 with seven victories at home since their upset of the Waves. The 35-match streak is the longest in school history, eclipsing the previous mark of 27 matches from Sept. 9, 1993 through Sept. 2, 1995.

The Irish have not lost in the Joyce Center since a three-game setback to #7 Colorado State on Sept. 23, 2000.

During the Irish winning streak at home, they have dropped just 11 games while winning 25 matches 3-0. Notre Dame also has won four tournament titles during the streak, including the 2000 BIG EAST Championship, the 2001 and 2002 Shamrock Invitational titles and the 2002 Golden Dome Invitational.

Irish home attendance hits an all-time high in 2002:

Bolstered by two matches played before Notre Dame football pep rallies and an overall increase in attendance, the Irish have broken into the top 30 in the country in attendance average this season. With a school-record 3,251 in attendance on Friday, Nov. 1, as the Irish took on Providence, Notre Dame pushed its average to 1,064 and moved into 27th in the country in attendance. The 3,251 crowd was the 48th-best in the country this season (as of Nov. 4).

Irish set school records during classic victory over #10 Pepperdine:

The victory over the visiting Waves on Saturday, Sept. 14, was more than just Notre Dame’s first victory over a top-10 opponent since 1995. The win stretched the Irish home court winning streak to a record 28 matches and provided Notre Dame its second home tournament title of the season (combined with the Shamrock Invitational).

The match against the Waves also set two team records. The 30-32, 30-24, 29-31, 30-25 and 15-10 game scores matched the team record for points in a match (134) from Notre Dame’s five-game victory over Illinois State in 2001. The Notre Dame – Pepperdine match also is the longest in the Joyce Center under the new rally scoring rules, as the match ended two hours, 28 minutes after it began (surpassing the Illinois State match by six minutes).

Another team record was set earlier in the tournament, when Notre Dame defeated Loyola College 30-16, 30-16 and 30-14 to win by 44 points, the largest winning margin for the Irish under the new rally scoring method.

Pepperdine is currently ranked #8 in the nation.

Notre Dame utilizing its front row strength to dominate at the net:

The 2001 Irish team posted a 3.42 blocks-per-game average, second to just the ’85 (3.51) and ’88 (3.57) teams.

Entering this weekend’s match, the Irish are averaging 3.69 blocks per game this season.

Front row specialists Malinda Goralski, Kristy Kreher and Marcie Bomhack graduated last season, but a talented freshman class, combined with some experienced front line players, have shown the ability to improve the Irish defense at the net. In the during the 2002 regular season, Notre Dame dominated at the net to collect 361 team blocks and have failed to post 10 or more team blocks in just five matches this season (vs. Colorado, at St. John’s, at Hawai’i-Oct. 22, at Illinois State, vs. Providence).

Try to hit through this front line:

Notre Dame’s blocking prowess has been well documented this season, but the Irish have some rotations that defy opposing teams to get a shot through. At certain times during a match, Katie Neff (6-5), Lauren Brewster (6-3) and Lauren Kelbley (6-2) are patrolling the net for the Irish defense. Add in 6-1 all-BIG EAST high jumper Emily Loomis and the Irish defensive wall becomes even more impressive.

Neff (92 blocks), Brewster (148), Kelbley (99) and Loomis (93) play a large role in Notre Dame’s 3.69 blocks-per-game average that was ranked first in the nation as of Nov. 18 – and has been ranked first in the nation for several weeks this season.

Brewster enjoying one of the top rookie seasons in Notre Dame volleyball history:

Freshman Lauren Brewster has been stacking up the blocks since she first stepped on the court against Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Aug. 30.

The rookie currently has 148 blocks (ranked fifth in the country as of Nov. 3), which puts her among the top five freshman at Notre Dame all-time in terms of blocks during their first season for the Irish and just 12 behind matching Mary Leffers for the all-time rookie record:

Notre Dame freshman year block totals:

1. Mary Leffers (’96), 160

2. Lauren Brewster (’02), 148

3. Mary Kay Waller (’85), 144

4. Jaimie Lee (’94), 110

5. Jessica Fiebelkorn (’89), 107

Debbie Brown coaching is in her 12th year as the mentor of the Irish volleyball program:

Debbie Brown has guided the program throughout the 90’s and into the new century, developing the Irish into a volleyball power in the BIG EAST and one of the best programs in the nation. Brown is 297-101 (.746) and has earned numerous coach-of-the-year accolades throughout her 11 full years with the Irish, including the 2000 and 2001 BIG EAST Coach of the Year awards.

Brown also is closing in on her 300th victory with the Irish, needing just three more victories to reach that career milestone. Entering the 2002 season, Brown’s 393-127 overall Division I coaching record placed her 26th on the winningest active coaches list.

Irish home court win streaks carry on to 2003:

Notre Dame’s impressive home court win streaks will carry over to the 2003 season, as the Irish have no more matches scheduled at home this season.

Since Notre Dame began BIG EAST play in 1995, they have not lost to a BIG EAST team on the Joyce Center floor. That winning streak stands at 49.

Notre Dame also has won 35 consecutive matches at home.


The NCAA Women’s Volleyball Rules Committee has introduced another rule change that will have a large effect on how the game is played. After the introduction rally scoring in 2001, the 2002 season marks the beginning of the libero era in women’s collegiate volleyball.

A libero (designated back row player) will be allowed in the lineup for the 2002 season. A defensive specialist that does not count toward the team’s substitutions, the libero can freely replace any player that has rotated to the back row. Unlike traditional substitutions that are administered by the referee, the libero can enter the match any time there is a dead ball.

Since the libero is a defensive player, a certain restrictions have been established on the libero’s offensive capabilities. A libero only plays in the back row and cannot serve or attempt to block a shot. The libero cannot attack the ball above the net, nor can the libero set the ball with an overhead finger pass in the attack zone.

Once the libero comes out of the match, the player must wait at least one point before reentering.

Here is a quick look at Notre Dame’s last 35 match victories at home:

2000 –

Sept. 29, Villanova, W, 3-0

Oct. 1, Georgetown, W, 3-0

Oct. 20, Rutgers, W, 3-0

Oct. 22, Seton Hall, W, 3-0

Nov. 3, Boston College, W, 3-0

Nov. 4, North Carolina, W, 3-0

Nov. 7, Saint Louis, W, 3-0

Nov. 18, Connecticut, W, 3-0*

Nov. 19, Rutgers, W, 3-0*

2001 –

Aug. 31, SW Texas St., W, 3-0

Sept. 1, Florida Atlantic, W, 3-0

Sept. 1, Idaho, W, 3-1

Sept. 18, Valparaiso, W, 3-0

Sept. 22, Syracuse, W, 3-0

Sept. 28, Virginia Tech, W, 3-0

Sept. 30, Georgetown, W, 3-1

Oct. 12, Villanova, W, 3-0

Oct. 14, Rutgers, W, 3-0

Nov. 9, St. John’s, W, 3-0

Nov. 11, Seton Hall, W, 3-0

Nov. 14, Illinois State, W, 3-2

2002 –

Aug. 30, UW-Milwaukee, W, 3-0

Aug. 31, Cincinnati, W, 3-0

Sept. 1, Cal Poly, W, 3-0

Sept. 13, Northwestern, W, 3-0

Sept. 14, Loyola College, W, 3-0

Sept. 14, Pepperdine, W, 3-2

Sept. 21, Michigan, W, 3-1

Sept. 27, Connecticut, W, 3-1

Sept. 29, St. John’s, W, 3-1

Oct. 25, Pittsburgh, W, 3-1

Oct. 27, West Virginia, W, 3-1

Nov. 1, Providence, W, 3-0

Nov. 3, Boston College, W, 3-0

* – 2000 BIG EAST Championship