Sept. 27, 2002
The University of Notre Dame volleyball team (10-3, 1-0) was taken to the brink on its home court Friday evening, surviving a four-game match (28-30, 33-31, 30-18, 31-29) against BIG EAST Conference opponent Connecticut (4-8, 0-1) at the Joyce Center. Emily Loomis led Notre Dame with 20 kills on .356 hitting, while freshman Meg Henican came off the bench for nine kills, 14 digs and three aces.
The Irish extended a number of streaks in the contest, pushing their BIG EAST regular-season win streak to 35, their conference home record to 43-0 and also posted their 30th-consecutive home court win.
The Huskies ignored many of the statistics entering the match and came out focused and ready to battle Notre Dame to the end. Irish starting setter Kristen Kinder had battled a pesky knee injury most of the week and did not practice, but was finally able to get back on the court for the match on Friday.
Notre Dame’s offense was unable to find its groove in the first game, however, and Connecticut surprised them with a 30-28 game-one victory. The break between games one and two didn’t slow down the Husky attack, as UConn jumped ahead to a 20-10 lead at one point in the game.
Irish head coach Debbie Brown turned to three different players to provide a spark for her team. First, freshman setter Kelly Burrell entered in relief of Kristen Kinder. Second, Meg Henican came in at outside hitter and Kim Fletcher, a preseason all-BIG EAST selection, was inserted at middle blocker.
All three, Burrell, Henican and Fletcher had seen limited time this season, but they rose to the occasion and provided just the lift Brown was looking for. Notre Dame slowly cut into the Husky lead and finally built a bit of momentum with Connecticut ahead 26-21.
Henican dropped back to serve and Loomis provided a kill. Some aggressive serving from Henican prompted two consecutive Connecticut attack errors (including a block from Fletcher and Burrell) and the lead was suddenly three points.
The teams traded points back and forth until UConn’s Jamie Hadenfeldt stepped back to serve at game point. Burrell answered with a dump kill, followed by a service ace from the Irish setter. Katie Neff and Lauren Brewster then combined on a block, followed by another Notre Dame block by Brewster and Loomis. Suddenly, the Husky advantage was just one point at 29-28. Brewster came back with a kill to tie the game and yet another Notre Dame block by Brewster and Neff propelled their team to game point.
Julie Erbez temporarily stopped the bleeding for Connecticut with a kill, but a Husky attack error put Notre Dame right back at game point. Melissa Wooley tied it up with a shot down the middle of the Irish defense, but a UConn attack error and Henican kill provided Notre Dame with a stunning come-from-behind victory and all the momentum they needed to control the rest of the match.
Connecticut attempted their own rally in game four, however. Trailing 24-14, the Huskies would cut the Irish lead all they way down to 28-28. Henican provided a service ace and Loomis and Brewster blocked Connecticut’s final attempt to seal the victory.
Notre Dame returns to action Sunday, Sept. 29, at 2 p.m. against St. John’s.