Nov. 18, 2001
The University of Notre Dame volleyball team rallied from a 2-1 deficit to win its seventh BIG EAST Championship with a 30-22, 24-30, 27-30, 30-20, 15-11 victory over Georgetown in the BIG EAST tournament final on Sunday, Nov. 18. The Irish also earn a measure of revenge against the Hoyas – the only team to defeat Notre Dame in BIG EAST Championship competition in the 1999 championship match.
Notre Dame improves its BIG EAST Championship tournament record to 14-1 since it joined the league in 1995.
“Georgetown came in and played very aggressively,” Irish head coach Debbie Brown said after the match.
“They are an outside dominated team and the games we were able to stop their outside hitters we won.”
Malinda Goralski was named the 2001 BIG EAST Championshp Most Outstanding Player, after leading the team in hitting percentage during the weekend and averaging over a block a game in both matches.
The Irish came out on top of their game to begin the match. With a strong blocking performance, Notre Dame was able to build a quick 10-5 advantage. The lead soon grew to an 18-11 Irish lead, sparked by eight team blocks in game one – including two solo blocks from Emily Loomis and a solo by Marcie Bomhack.
Georgetown scratched back into the game behind three Irish attack errors, a kill and an ace from Megan Mullen to cut the Notre Dame lead down to 20-17.
Notre Dame freshman Emily Loomis kept the Irish in front with three consecutive kills, followed by a Goralski and Kristy Kreher block to push their team back ahead 27-20 and force a Hoya timeout.
The Georgetown break did not stop the Notre Dame momentum, as Loomis killed an overpass, then scored a tip kill followed by a Goralski solo block on game point to put the Irish ahead 1-0 in the match.
Loomis qualified as the star for the Irish in the first game, posting six kills (on .600 hitting), five digs and two blocks, while Kim Fletcher and Goralski added three blocks each.
“Emily was very intense today and played an outstanding match,” Brown said.
“Her effort today really stands out among the team.”
Following the form from game one, Notre Dame jumped out to a quick lead while taking advantage of two Hoya errors and two aces from Janie Alderete to post a 7-2 lead.
But the Notre Dame advantage would be short-lived. Three kills from Georgetown’s Lauren Warner, coupled with an ace and a block, quickly dissipated the Irish lead. Suddenly, the Hoyas were back in the game and the match with a 9-7 lead.
The score would remain close until Georgetown jumped out ahead with its second five-point scoring streak of the game. Behind the strength of four Yulia Vtyurina kills, the Hoyas turned a 17-15 lead into a more imposing 21-15 advantage.
Fletcher would attempt to keep her team close with three consecutive kills, but the Hoya lead continued to grow behind the hot-hitting from Vtyurina and Warner. Warner would end up with eight kills in game two, including the last point of the game to give her team a 30-24 win and tie up the match at 1-1.
The Hoyas were able to even up the match with a batch of highly accurate hitting. After Notre Dame posted seven team blocks in the first game, they only managed three in the second. Georgetown also recorded a .344 hitting percentage in the second game (as Vtyurina and Warner combined for 14 kills) while the Irish could muster just a .107 team mark.
“We got our hands on a lot of balls, but we just weren’t getting any blocks in games two and three,” Brown said.
“As the match went on, I think our blockers got a better read on what the Georgetown hitters wanted to do and our defense became much more effective.”
The Hoya hitting continued in game three as the Irish were unable to mount any consistent offense while the Georgetown hitters kept scoring kills. Another Georgetown scoring burst put the Hoyas up 13-8, and the Irish were forced to take a timeout to regroup.
While Notre Dame did not turn the came completely around immediately, they slowly started to battle back into contention. Loomis once again turned out to be the key hitter, scoring two kills and a solo block over a 12-5 Irish run to get her team back in the game.
After some great back-and-forth play by both teams, Notre Dame was able to get two consecutive kills from Loomis and Kreher to cut the lead to just one at 28-27.
The Hoyas called for a timeout and returned to the court with Notre Dame serving. After a furious rally, Loomis sent an attack just long down the opposite line to put the Hoyas at game point. Georgetown immediately went to Vtyurina on the next play, and the all-BIG EAST first team member delivered with a kill down the line to put her team ahead 2-1 in the match.
“Our team has battled all year,” Brown said about the team condition between games three and four.
“We stuck with the same matchups throughout the entire match. Sometimes, you might want to change things up, but we stuck with the same lineup throughout the match. The team really fought to stay in contention in game four.”
Three consecutive Georgetown attack errors provided a three-point cushion for the Irish early in game four, but Vtyurina erased the Irish advantage with three kills to deadlock the game at 6-6.
It was time for the Irish offense to wake up, and its started to show signs of life behind the hitting of Bomhack and Flechter. The Notre Dame duo combined for four kills over a crucial four-point stretch as the Irish inched ahead 12-7.
The Notre Dame lead slowly started to increase as the Irish began to find a steady flow to their offense. Goralski began to assert herself at the net, and Loomis continued to hit effectively all over the court. After Goralski and Kreher combined to block Warner two times in a row, the Irish found themselves with a comfortable 23-16 lead.
Bomhack eventually sent the game out of reach with three consecutive kills to catapult the Irish to a 28-19 lead. A Goralski kill put Notre Dame at game point and GU’s Warner hit into the net on game point to force a fifth and deciding game.
Notre Dame turned to its reigning BIG EAST Player of the Year in the fifth game. Goralski dominated the first moments of game five, putting down four consecutive kills and giving her team a 6-1 lead.
The Irish lead peaked at 8-1 before the Hoyas would stage a rally. Behind two blocks and a kill from Warner, Georgetown cut the lead down to 8-5 and forced an Irish timeout.
Goralski temporarily stopped the Hoya run with a kill, but an ace from Jennifer Ward and a kill by Sara Albert cut into the Irish lead to 9-7.
Kreher then took her turn to step up. Silenced by a strong Georgetown defense most of the day, she performed a solo block on a Vtyurina attack to put the Irish ahead by three and followed up with a kill off the block to make the score 11-7 in Notre Dame’s favor.
“That solo block in game five by Kristy Kreher was a very big play in the match for us,” Brown said.
“We had a lead, but we were not really rolling and she went up and got a solo block in on (Vtyurina). That kind of took the wind out of their (Georgetown’s) sails.
The Hoyas eventually performed three straight errors – a serve error and two attack errors and the Irish won the BIG EAST Championship with a 15-11 game five victory.
NOTES: Emily Loomis set a career-high in the match with 19 kills … she also had four blocks, 10 digs and an assist … Kim Fletcher recorded the second double-double of her career with 10 kills and a career-best 10 blocks … Kreher was limited on offense again with just five kills, but her passing and defense ended up as a key cog in the Irish performance … Kreher ended up with six blokcs, eight digs, four assists and an ace … Kristen Kinder who “set a great match” according to Brown, ended up with 44 assists, 14 digs, three blocks and two aces.