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Volleyball Returns Home For Last Two BIG EAST Matches Of The Season

Nov. 7, 2001

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#23 Notre Dame vs. St. John’s, Friday, Nov. 9, 7 p.m.

#23 Notre Dame vs. Seton Hall, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2 p.m.

Irish return home for first match in 26 days at the Joyce Center as BIG EAST regular season winds down:

The University of Notre Dame volleyball team (16-5, 10-0) will be back in action at home this weekend against St. John’s (Friday) and Seton Hall (Sunday) in the Joyce Center looking for its sixth BIG EAST Conference regular-season title and third straight undefeated conference regular season. The Irish enter this weekend’s final two conference contests with a perfect 10-0 league record, ahead of Rutgers (9-1) and Georgetown (9-2) in the standings.

A look at this weekend’s conference matchups (conference record in parenthesis, see page four of these notes for the BIG EAST Conference standings):

Friday, Nov. 9

Pittsburgh (5-5) at Rutgers (9-1)

Providence (0-10) at Boston College (4-6)

St. John’s (5-5) at Notre Dame (10-0)

Seton Hall (5-5) at Syracuse (3-7)

Saturday, Nov. 10

West Virginia (3-7) at Villanova (1-9)

Providence (0-10) at Connecticut (7-3)

Virginia Tech (5-6) at Georgetown (9-2)

Sunday, Nov. 11

Connecticut (7-3) at Boston College (4-6)

Pittsburgh (5-5) at Villanova (1-9)

St. John’s (5-5) at Syracuse (3-7)

Seton Hall (5-5) at Notre Dame (10-0)

West Virginia (3-7) at Rutgers (9-1)

Notre Dame, Rutgers and Georgetown have already clinched a berth in the 2001 BIG EAST Championship at Fitzgerald Fieldhouse in Pittsburgh, Pa., on Nov. 17 and 18. Connecticut, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Pittsburgh all have a chance at earning the fourth and final berth in the two-day tournament with victories this weekend.

Notre Dame – Illinois State contest will be televised locally:

The Notre Dame – Illinois State match scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 14, at 7 p.m., will be shown locally on WHME-TV on a tape delay basis at 11 p.m. that same evening. Bob Nagle will provide the play-by-play while Dennis Brown will be the color commentator.

Notre Dame vs. St. John’s series history:

The Irish and the Red Storm will be meeting for the seventh time … Notre Dame has won all six previous meetings … all six Irish victories have come in three-game matches … Marcie Bomhack had 16 kills in the 2000 meeting, while Malinda Goralski added seven blocks and eight kills … Robyn Kurasaki had 27 assists and six digs for the Red Storm … Notre Dame hit .636 as a team in the first game of the ’00 match … the Irish are 3-0 against St. John’s in the Joyce Center.

A look at the Red Storm:

St. John’s is currently 17-8 on the season and 5-5 in the BIG EAST … the Red Storm features a balanced attack with four players posting over 190 kills this season (Sarah McCrary 289, Rosalyn Dang 242, Kristy Mercein 209 and Mischara Saunders) … Robyn Kurasaki returns as the St. John’s setter this season, averaging 10.84 assists per game and 2.76 digs … St. John’s enjoyed two win streaks over five matches this season … they are 2-6 in their last eight matches.

Notre Dame vs. Seton Hall series history:

The Irish and the Pirates will be meeting for the seventh time … Notre Dame has won all six previous meetings … the Irish claimed a three-game victory (15-4, 15-9, 15-13) in 2000 … twelve Irish players posted at least one kill in the match, led by Kristy Kreher (seven) … Kari Belin had six kills and three blocks for Seton Hall … Notre Dame is 3-0 against the Pirates in the Joyce Center.

A look at the Pirates:

Seton Hall is 12-11 this season and 5-5 in BIG EAST Conference play … Kari Belin returns as the top offensive threat for the Pirates, averaging 3.09 kills per game on .319 hitting … Alyson Furch leads the team in blocking with 83 (1.04 per game) … Shawn McDonald has been the Pirate setter this season with 747 assists (9.96 per game) … Seton Hall will face Syracuse on Friday, Nov. 9, before Sunday’s match with Notre Dame.

Kreher and Loomis earn BIG EAST honors:

Senior opposite Kristy Kreher was named the Co-BIG EAST Player of the Week and freshman Emily Loomis was named Co-Rookie of the Week on Monday, Nov. 5, for each of their outstanding performances while leading the Notre Dame volleyball team through two conference victories last weekend and clinching a spot in the 2001 BIG EAST Championship in Pittsburgh, Pa. (Nov. 17 and 18).

Kreher’s stellar .765 hitting percentage mark against Pittsburgh on Sunday was a career-high for the senior. She recorded 13 kills on just 17 swings with no errors. Not just an offensive threat, Kreher averaged 1.43 assists and 1.71 digs per game with six blocks in the two matches last weekend.

Loomis enjoyed the best weekend of her young career, helping the Irish through the two road victories over West Virginia and Pittsburgh. She posted double-digit kills in each match (11 and 10) and hit a career-best .381 at Pittsburgh. She also added a career-high eight digs against the Panthers.

For the week, Loomis averaged 3.00 kills and 2.00 digs per game.

The Irish are currently in first place in the BIG EAST Conference with a 16-5 overall record and 10-0 mark in league competition. Notre Dame also is ranked 23rd in the latest USA Today/American Volleyball Coaches Association top 25.

Notre Dame in BIG EAST volleyball competition:

Since the Irish joined the BIG EAST Conference in 1995, they have posted an exceptional 74-2 (.974) regular-season conference mark. Notre Dame has also won 32 consecutive conference regular-season matches. The two conference losses the Irish suffered were to Connecticut and West Virginia (both on the road) in 1998.

The Irish are 41-0 at home in regular-season BIG EAST matches.

Include the BIG EAST Championship matches and Notre Dame has posted a 79-3 (.963) record against conference teams since 1995.

First team to earn 12 conference victories?

With the entrance of Virginia Tech into the BIG EAST Conference for volleyball this season, the Irish have an opportunity to become the first team to win 12 BIG EAST Conference volleyball matches in conference history.

Next year, the University of Miami will begin BIG EAST volleyball competition.

Brown tabbed as Olympic Torchbearer:

University of Notre Dame head volleyball coach Debbie Brown has been selected to represent the South Bend/Northern Indiana area as an Olympic Torchbearer when the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Olympic Torch Relay travels through the area.

On Friday, Oct. 19, South Bend mayor Stephen Luecke introduced a small number of the 34 runners, including Brown, who will carry the flame through South Bend when it arrives on Jan. 4, 2002.

The route has not been made official yet, but it will end at the Century Center at 10:00 a.m. on Jan. 4, where the city will host the flame for a 30 minute community celebration before the Relay continues to Gary, Ind.

The nominations for the local torchbearers started in the spring and the nominees were required to embody the inspirational spirit of the Olympics by serving and motivating the community. All nominations from throughout the country were sent to a central location, organized by zip code, and then distributed to approximately 100 judging sectors.

While a junior at USC in 1978, Brown accepted an invitation to train full-time with the U.S. national volleyball team. She captained the team to a fifth-place finish at the ’78 World Championship before earning a spot on the 1980 Olympic team (which never competed in the games due to the U.S. boycott of the games).

She continued her association with the national team in 1986 as a consultant, and she emerged as a full-time assistant in 1988, aiding the team’s ’88 Olympic effort and a 1990 campaign that resulted in a bronze medal at the World Championships.

In May of 1995, Brown was named an “All-Time Great Volleyball Player” by USA Volleyball.

Brown has coached at Notre Dame since 1990, leading the team to nine consecutive NCAA tournament appearances and five BIG EAST Conference championships. She and her husband of 20 years, Dennis, have two sons, Connor and Ryan. The Browns currently reside in Granger, Ind.

Matches cancelled:

The matches previously scheduled against Michigan, Indiana State, Tulane and Purdue, originally postponed due to the terrorist attack on the United States, will not be replayed this season.

Home win streak:

As the Irish have battled through a tough road schedule this season, they also have extended their home-court win streak to 17 matches. Notre Dame’s last loss on the Joyce Center court was to seventh-ranked Colorado State on Sept. 23, 2000.

The 17-match home win streak ranks second on Notre Dame’s all-time charts behind the 27-match streak the team compiled through Sept. 25, 1993, to Sept. 2, 1995.

Irish step up their team blocking:

Notre Dame enters this weekend’s matches at West Virginia and Pittsburgh with 257 total team blocks. As of Oct. 28, 2001, the Irish were ranked fifth in the nation in blocks per game (3.52).

In its 21 matches this season, Notre Dame has failed to reach double-digit blocks just seven times (posting nine blocks in four of those matches). In a notable performance the team blocked 21 attempts versus Georgetown.

The school record for team block average per game is in reach for the Irish this season. The 1988 edition of the Fighting Irish averaged 3.57 blocks per game.

Goralski leads BIG EAST:

Senior middle blocker Malinda Goralski ranks at the top of two statistical categories in the conference rankings (as of Nov. 5). The Missouri City, Texas, native leads all league players in blocks per game with 1.70 (124 total). She also is ranked second in hitting percentage (.382) and plays a major role in Notre Dame’s top team ranking in blocks per game (3.52).

In the latest NCAA statistical rankings (Nov. 5), Goralski was ranked eighth in blocks per game (1.70) and tied for 25th in hitting percentage (.382).

Alderete excels in the back row:

Irish defensive specialist Janie Alderete, who usually subs in for starting middle blocker Malinda Goralski in the back row, is becoming one of the top performers on the Irish roster. A junior from Santa Clara, Calif., Alderete has recorded more than five digs in 18 out of 21 matches this season, including 10 double-digit dig matches.

She was all over the court against #15 Pepperdine on Sept. 9, digging a career-high 19 balls. She has continued that form lately as well, recording 17 digs at West Virginia, nine against Georgetown, 12 at Toledo, 13 vs. Rutgers and 12 at Providence.

Alderete currently leads the team in digs per game with a 2.82 average (206 total).

Not just a defensive threat, Alderete is second on the team with 22 aces this season and recorded a career-high four against Virginia Tech on Sept. 28.

Kristen Kinder takes advantage of starting opportunity:

Heading into the 2001 season, the starting setter was clearly one of the more pivotal positions on the team. After the graduation of four-year starter Denise Boylan, the reigns of the Irish offense were handed to sophomore Kristen Kinder.

The second-year player from Fresno, Calif., has responded. Leading the team to a .256 hitting percentage 21 matches into the season, Kinder has turned a possible team weakness into a team strength.

Shrugging off a lack of playing time in 2000, Kinder has helped the Irish lead the conference in hitting and is a presence across the boxscore after every match. She is first on the team in aces with 28 (recording a career-best five against Kentucky on Tuesday, Oct. 23), second in digs with 178 and has collected 38 blocks (including eight solo). Her assist average is third in the BIG EAST Conference at 11.75 (as of Nov. 5) and she also has shown the ability to provide a kill when needed – knocking down 71 shots this season (0.97 per game).

Jessica Kinder provides a spark off the bench:

The most powerful hitter on the team, Jessica Kinder has recently played a major role in the Irish offensive success.

Often subbing into the game in crucial situations to serve, the sophomore outside hitter utilizes a powerful jump serve to keep the opposing team’s reception off-balance and upset the entire offensive flow.

She was at her best against Villanova, helping the Irish score nine consecutive points on her serve. She would end up posting the best numbers in a match of her young career, scoring a personal-best five aces, also while posting five kills on five swings and five digs.

Kinder is coming off a career-best seven-kill, three-block performance at Providence on Oct. 28.

Irish forced to adjust from the comforts of home to life on the road:

Notre Dame played 19 matches in the friendly confines of the Joyce Center last season. The Irish had 17 regular-season home matches scheduled and won both matches at the 2000 BIG EAST Volleyball Championship, which was held on campus.

The 2001 schedule calls for at least 13 road matches, a number that could increase if the Irish qualify for the BIG EAST Championship. A key stretch of the Irish schedule began with the Oct. 17 match with #16 Northern Iowa, as Notre Dame will have played six consecutive road matches from Oct. 16, through Nov. 4, before returning to their home court on Nov. 9.

Notre Dame broke through for its first road victory of the season at Toledo on Tuesday, Oct. 2. The Irish are now 7-5 on the road, with four of the five losses to ranked teams (#1 Nebraska, #7 UCLA, #15 Pepperdine, #16 Northern Iowa).

Strong schedule:

Irish head coach Debbie Brown, who led the team to two key victories over high ranked opponents in 2000 (3-2 come-from-behind victory over #15 BYU and a 3-1 win over #22 Loyola Marymount), has scheduled a number of highly-rated teams this season. Notre Dame will face five top 25 teams in 2001, including #7 Florida in the Gator’s Volleyball Conference Challenge at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex on Nov. 24. The Irish have already faced #1 Nebraska, #7 UCLA, #15 Pepperdine and #16 Northern Iowa this season.


A number of Irish players have posted career-bests during the 2001 season. Malinda Goralski tied her career high in both kills (18) and blocks (11) vs. Southwest Texas and Idaho, respectively. She matched her career high in blocks at Kentucky on Oct. 23.

Kim Fletcher posted two career-bests while achieving her first career double-double with 14 kills and 10 digs against Idaho. Fletcher also posted a personal-best nine blocks against Georgetown. Freshman Emily Loomis also posted 14 kills vs. the Vandals, for a personal-best total of her young career.

Junior DS Janie Alderete set a new career mark with 19 digs against #15 Pepperdine on Sept. 9, while sophomore DS Christa Moen posted a personal-best 10 digs at Boston College.

Sophomore OH Jessica Kinder has also excelled in the back row recently, digging a career-best 10 attempts at Connecticut and a career high seven kills at Providence. Kristen Kinder recently joined the career-best category after serving five aces at Kentucky on Oct. 23.

NCAA Championship selections pushed back:

Due to the tragic events Sept. 11, the NCAA Executive Committee directed NCAA committees to make appropriate accommodations, such as extending playing seasons, altering schedules and adjusting criteria for championship selection for institutions that chose not to play during the last few days.

The Division I Women’s Volleyball Committee voted to move the championship selection announcement from Sunday, Nov. 25, to Monday, Nov. 26, in order to allow greater flexibility for member institutions to reschedule contests that may have been postponed due to world events. The championship dates of competition will not be adjusted.

Additionally, the committee further emphasized its existing policy of preferred first- and second-round competition dates of Friday/Saturday as first choice, Saturday/Sunday as second choice and Thursday/Friday as third choice.