Sept. 20, 2009
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Playing in its second five-set match in as many days, the Notre Dame volleyball team fell short in an effort to upset No. 19 Florida State and was handed a 3-2 (19-25, 25-17, 18-25, 26-24, 16-14) defeat from a Seminole squad that is off to the program’s best start since 1997. Sophomore outside hitter Kristen Dealy’s career-high 21 kills were not enough as the host team needed to extend the last two frames Sunday afternoon in front of 1,058 fans at Tully Gymnasium.
Florida State improved to 10-1 overall (1-0 Atlantic Coast) as Notre Dame fell to 6-4 heading into next week’s twinbill at Connecticut (Sept. 25) and St. John’s (Sept. 27) to begin BIG EAST Conference play.
“As a coach and a competitor I’ve never been happy with a loss, but I could not be prouder of the way the team battled today,” Irish head coach Debbie Brown said. “Everyone that started and came off the bench made positive contributions and we’ll take these lessons into conference play next week.”
Dealy added seven digs and senior outside hitter Serinity Phillips was good for 19 kills and five blocks. Offensively, Notre Dame hit .297 as senior setter Jamel Nicholas finished with 55 assists. Freshman middle blocker Hilary Eppink led the Irish with six blocks as junior middle blocker Kellie Sciacca added five more. Sophomore libero Frenchy Silva and Nicholas both had 14 digs.
Florida State received 19 kills from Brianna Berry with 13 more coming from Jordana Price. Mira Djuric had four aces.
The Irish went to Sciacca early and often in the first as the visitors took a 7-4 lead following a Florida State error. Freshman libero Christina Theofilos aced the Seminoles at 15-11 and Eppink took a tip over the block to keep the four-point lead (20-16). Notre Dame led by five (22-17) on a Seminole blocking error then took advantage of a freeball as senior outside hitter Christina Kaelin buried one of her two kills over the final stretch at 23-18.
Dealy led all players in the frame with six kills on 10 swings as the Irish hit .438 as a unit.
Florida State crept ahead to several small leads in the second but the Irish had an answer for each of the streaks. Phillips’ backrow attack brought the Irish to within one, 7-6, and Dealy struck a kill off one foot at 8-7. Eppink and Phillips teamed to tie things at 9-9 with a double block on the right side but it was all Florida State after that point.
Heading into intermission, Dealy led the pack with 11 kills at a .429 hitting average while Florida State was out-hitting Notre Dame .367 to .284.
Notre Dame turned a 3-3 tie in the third into an 8-3 lead after a pair of Phillips kills and a few FSU mishaps. The Seminoles took three straight out of a timeout but Notre Dame got back on its feet with a Sciacca kill down the right line at 10-7. Notre Dame went ahead by five on a Florida State setting error (12-7) and Djuric registered an ace off Dealy (12-9) as part of a Seminole comeback. But Dealy sent back Djuric’s overpass one play later to start a three-point run. Senior outside hitter Megan Fesl’s swing from the left side gave Notre Dame a 17-11 lead and Sciacca bounced one off a quick set at 18-12 to put the set in Irish control for good.
Three early Seminoles aces in the fourth put them ahead but Fesl shouldered a load and led the Irish to a 10-7 lead. Florida State closed to within one (11-10) before Dealy converted an attack from the left side. Phillips followed with a crosscourt shot from the right wing. Eppink stepped up for blocks with Dealy (14-10) and Phillips (16-11). Fesl’s ace knocked the visitors ahead by five, 20-15. However, Florida State rallied back and the set found itself tied at 23-23 after a Phillips backrow attack. Fesl gave Notre Dame match point at 24-23 but the Seminoles scored on the next three rallies.
Djuric landed her fourth ace of the day in the fifth to double the count on Notre Dame, 4-2, and the Seminoles took leads of 6-3 and 8-4. Dealy accounted for a kill and block to bring Notre Dame within two, 8-6. Another Dealy smack tied the set at 8-8 as the Seminoles scored the next two points. Phillips brought Notre Dame within one (11-10) with a facial and Dealy’s ace tied the set again at 11-11. Kaelin found the opposite corner from the left side at 12-12 and 13-13, and then bounced one off the block when Florida State had its first match point. With a 14-14 lead, Florida State punched in the final two scores.