Nov. 14, 2008
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Four Notre Dame volleyball players finished with at least 10 kills and freshman Kristen Dealy matched a career-high with 18 digs, but the Irish could not seal the deal in an effort to upset St. John’s at the Joyce Center on Friday. The Red Storm (21-7 overall, 12-1 BIG EAST) upheld their top seat in the BIG EAST Conference standings with the 3-2 (25-17, 18-25, 16-25, 25-19, 16-14) win behind 17 kills and 11 digs from Valeria Kovaleva. Notre Dame (13-13 overall, 8-5 BIG EAST) stuffed a season-best 19 shots with senior Justine Stremick tallying 10 blocks.
Notre Dame (.234) bettered the Red Storm (.186) in hitting percentage but was aced nine times by the visitors. Junior setter Jamel Nicholas had 48 assists to spot the Irish swingers.
It was the fourth five-set match for Notre Dame in its last six outings with the Irish claiming victories in just one of those contests. The marathon victory gave St. John’s its third-consecutive BIG EAST regular season championship.
The match had its fair share of drama in front of 1,591 fans as Notre Dame relied on its defense to keep one of the league’s top offensive units in check. Along with its stiff play at the net, Notre Dame deflected countless Red Storm attacks to keep rallies alive while totaling 55 digs. The score was tied a total of 23 times – 10 coming in the fourth set – with nine lead changes.
The Irish drew first blood as Stremick had a kill to start the match though the Red Storm jolted to a 10-0 run that made the difference in the set. Notre Dame came within seven scores on six occasions but could never get over the hump.
Responding with a .321 hitting average in the second set, Notre Dame blocked five shots – four coming from Stremick – in the frame while holding the Red Storm to a .029 average. St. John’s went up, 3-2, before Notre Dame tacked on a 9-0 run. Dealy bounced an overpass (6-3) and junior Serinity Phillips’ ace found the top of the net and landed in St. John’s territory (7-3) during the streak. Phillips closed the night with a solid all-around effort, putting in seven kills with seven digs and five blocks. Stremick and Nicholas blocked a pair of shots to put Notre Dame on top by eight (11-3), then Dealy got in on the action with Stremick with two more rejections (19-10).
The Red Storm could not eclipse the .100 hitting mark for the second set in a row and finished the third period with a .030 average due largely in part to eight Irish blocks. Phillips and Stremick both had three blocks with Dealy adding a pair. Nicholas assisted on each of Notre Dame’s nine kills, including Dealy’s shot down the left line to give the Irish a 9-8 lead that they would not relinquish. A 10-2 run midway through the set gave Notre Dame a six-point cushion that was maintained when Kaelin soared for a solo block (17-11), and eventually stretched the margin into a nine-point advantage at the final whistle.
Notre Dame held a 3-1 lead to christen a fourth set that seemed destined to become a wire-to-wire battle. After Stremick’s kill made it 16-16, St. John’s heated up by claiming seven of the next nine points.
Trailing for most of the final frame, Notre Dame rallied to tie the count at 9-9 on Kaelin’s hammer. She converted another shot (10-10) before St. John’s found itself staring at match point after the third of Kovaleva’s five kills in the set. But back came the Irish, tying the score again (14-14) thanks to Darlene Ramdin’s attack error. Kovaleva took over on the final two plays with a pair of kills.
Notre Dame stays at home with a meeting against Connecticut on Sunday (Nov. 16). Live video, audio and stats will be available at UND.com. For up-to-the-minute results, sign up for IRISH ALERT text messaging services at UND.com.