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Volleyball Takes To The Road For Final Regular-Season Contests

Nov. 14, 2002

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Notre Dame (21-5, 11-0) at Miami (Fla.) (22-4, 8-3) Friday, Nov. 15, 7 p.m, Knight Athletic Complex

Notre Dame at Virginia Tech Sunday, Nov. 17, 1 p.m., Cassell Coliseum

BIG EAST regular-season title in hand, Irish face Miami and Virginia Tech during final regular-season weekend:

The University of Notre Dame volleyball team (21-5, 11-0) has already clinched its fourth-straight BIG EAST regular-season title this season, but its two opponents this weekend are looking to secure spots in the BIG EAST Championship, set for Nov. 23 & 24 in Pittsburgh, Pa.

In what might develop as the toughest BIG EAST road trip of the season, Notre Dame will take on first-year conference opponent Miami (22-4, 8-3) on Friday at 7 p.m., then turn around and make a trip to Blacksburg, Va., to face Virginia Tech (18-10, 8-3) on Sunday at 1 p.m.. The Hokies are currently in second place in the BIG EAST standings, while the Hurricanes sit in third place. A number of different scenarios could play out in conference action this weekend, as Miami, Virginia Tech, Connecticut (8-3) and Pittsburgh (8-4) all have the ability to qualify for the BIG EAST Championship, which features the top four teams in the final regular-season standings.

Connecticut will face Boston College and Providence this weekend, while Pittsburgh has one match at West Virginia. Miami and Virginia Tech also will face Syracuse this weekend.

Notre Dame leads the nation in team block average:

After slipping down one notch in the NCAA statistics a week ago, Notre Dame exploded for 16 team blocks in a three-game victory at Syracuse last weekend to assume first place in the nation for team block average. The Irish currently boast a 3.74 blocks-per-game average, ahead of Stanford and Nebraska in the team rankings.

Notre Dame has led the nation in block average most of the season, assuming first place with a 22-block effort against St. John’s on Sept. 29.

Conference winning streak will be tested this weekend, while the home court streak will carry on to 2003:

The Irish are looking to extend their conference win streaks this weekend. Notre Dame has not lost a regular-season BIG EAST Conference match since a loss at West Virginia on Nov. 15, 1998, a streak of 43 consecutive regular-season wins.

During the regular-season streak, the Irish have lost just one match to a BIG EAST foe, in the 1999 conference championship to Georgetown. Dating back to that setback vs. the Hoyas, Notre Dame has won 36 straight matches against league opponents (including BIG EAST Championship play).

Notre Dame’s impressive home court win streaks will carry over to the 2003 season, as the Irish have no more matches scheduled at home this season.

Since Notre Dame began BIG EAST play in 1995, they have not lost to a BIG EAST team on the Joyce Center floor. That winning streak stands at 49.

Notre Dame also has won 35 consecutive matches at home.

Irish win 20 matches for fourth season in a row:

Notre Dame’s 3-0 victory over Boston College on Sunday, Nov. 3, provided the Irish with their 20th victory of the season, marking the 2002 season as the fourth-straight in which head coach Debbie Brown’s team has posted at least 20 victories. In fact, Brown’s teams have reached 20 wins in all but one season since she took over the program in 1991.

Notre Dame won 20 matches in 1999, 20 in 2000 and 22 in 2001. The record for wins in the season in 33, reached in 1994 and 1986.

Irish finish unbeaten at home for the second straight season and just the fourth time in school history:

Two BIG EAST Conference victories over Providence and Boston College last weekend provided Notre Dame with its second consecutive undefeated season on the Joyce Center floor. The Irish will carry a 35-match win streak at home into the 2003 season.

The Irish posted a 12-0 record at home a year ago and improved that mark by one this season, finishing 13-0 in front of the Joyce Center crowd.

Notre Dame finished 17-0 at home in 1994 and 5-0 in 1982.

Brewster fifth in the nation in block average:

An exceptional week of defense at the net, which enabled Lauren Brewster to earn the BIG EAST rookie of the week award on Oct. 28, also moved the middle blocker up the national rankings in block average. Brewster was 12th as of Oct. 21, but her output during four matches from Oct. 21-26 moved her average to 1.64, was is fourth in the country as of Oct. 28.

The rookie from Brentwood, Tenn., has settled in at fifth in the nation in the latest statistical release from the NCAA, with a 1.64 average. She is behind Arkansas-Little Rock’s Ivana Kuzmic, Nebraska’s Amber Holmquist, Cal Poly’s Worthy Lien and Ana Schanze from Montana State.

Team gets back in the top 30 in the country for team hitting:

Led by all-star setter Kristen Kinder, the Irish have been steadily moving up the list of top hitting teams in the country. Notre Dame broke into the top 30 in team hitting percentage three weeks ago and currently rank 23rd in the country with a .269 team percentage. Miami, who the Irish face on Friday, is currently ranked 21st with a .271 team mark.

Notre Dame vs. Miami series notes:

The Irish and Hurricanes will be meeting for the first time … this is Miami’s first season of BIG EAST Conference volleyball competition … Miami began its volleyball program in 1972, but dropped the program in 1982 before restarting it in 2001 … the Hurricanes finished 17-7 as an independent last season … Valeria Tipiana leads the Miami offense with 355 kills (4.08 per game) and is currently hitting .339 … Mallorey James serves as the team’s setter, averaging 13.55 assists per game … Miami began the season with a 15-match winning streak … their four losses this season have been to Georgetown, Florida International, Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh.

Notre Dame vs. Virginia Tech series notes:

The Irish and Hokies will be meeting for the second time … the two teams met for the first time in 2001, Virginia Tech’s first year of BIG EAST Conference volleyball competition … Kim Fletcher scored nine kills, five digs and five blocks in the ’01 meeting … Ana Lang had six kills for Virginia Tech … Sunday’s match will be the first for Notre Dame in Cassell Coliseum … Lang is leading the Hokie offense again this season with a 3.77 kills per game average (400 total) … Virginia Tech’s setter, Melissa Markowski, is averaging 11.93 assists per game and has 1,277 total this season.

Notre Dame ranked first in the Northeast Region:

While the Irish have not yet broken back into the USA Today/AVCA top 25 rankings after placing 25th in the preseason poll this year, Notre Dame is ranked first in the Northeast Region, according to the NCAA Division I women’s volleyball committee.

The rankings were released on Oct. 22, then updated on Nov. 6, and Notre Dame led the way with a 20-5 overall record and 10-0 mark in the BIG EAST. The regional rankings are a key consideration when the NCAA Division I women’s volleyball tournament pairings are announced. The winner of the BIG EAST Conference Championship will receive and automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Northeast Regional Ranking:

Nov. 6, 2002 (records are as of Nov. 3)

Northeast Region

1. Notre Dame (20-5)

2. Temple (19-5)

3. American (20-6)

4. Virginia Tech (17-9)

5. Dayton (19-5)

6. Miami, Fla. (21-3)

7. Harvard (13-8)

8. Penn (17-4)

9. George Washington (15-10)

10. New Hampshire (18-10)

The Irish will face #6 Miami and #4 Virginia Tech this weekend.

Notre Dame in the BIG EAST statistical rankings:

As a team, the Irish are second in league hitting percentage (.269), first in blocks (3.74 – a whole 1.09 ahead of Miami in second place), third in assists (13.84) and third in kills (15.54).

As individuals, Lauren Brewster, who is ranked fifth in the country in blocks per game, leads the conference with a 1.64 average. Lauren Kelbley is seventh in the conference with a 1.17 average. Jessica Kinder is second in the conference in aces (0.50).

Irish set a new standard for consecutive home victories in memorable fashion:

Notre Dame’s victory over #10 Pepperdine extended the Irish home court winning streak to 28 matches. Notre Dame has moved that total to 35 with seven victories at home since their upset of the Waves. The 35-match streak is the longest in school history, eclipsing the previous mark of 27 matches from Sept. 9, 1993 through Sept. 2, 1995.

The Irish have not lost in the Joyce Center since a three-game setback to #7 Colorado State on Sept. 23, 2000.

During the Irish winning streak at home, they have dropped just 11 games while winning 25 matches 3-0. Notre Dame also has won four tournament titles during the streak, including the 2000 BIG EAST Championship, the 2001 and 2002 Shamrock Invitational titles and the 2002 Golden Dome Invitational.

Irish home attendance hits an all-time high in 2002:

Bolstered by two matches played before Notre Dame football pep rallies and an overall increase in attendance, the Irish have broken into the top 30 in the country in attendance average this season. With a school-record 3,251 in attendance on Friday, Nov. 1, as the Irish took on Providence, Notre Dame pushed its average to 1,064 and moved into 27th in the country in attendance. The 3,251 crowd was the 48th-best in the country this season (as of Nov. 4).

Irish set school records during classic victory over #10 Pepperdine:

The victory over the visiting Waves on Saturday, Sept. 14, was more than just Notre Dame’s first victory over a top-10 opponent since 1995. The win stretched the Irish home court winning streak to a record 28 matches and provided Notre Dame its second home tournament title of the season (combined with the Shamrock Invitational).

The match against the Waves also set two team records. The 30-32, 30-24, 29-31, 30-25 and 15-10 game scores matched the team record for points in a match (134) from Notre Dame’s five-game victory over Illinois State in 2001. The Notre Dame – Pepperdine match also is the longest in the Joyce Center under the new rally scoring rules, as the match ended two hours, 28 minutes after it began (surpassing the Illinois State match by six minutes).

Another team record was set earlier in the tournament, when Notre Dame defeated Loyola College 30-16, 30-16 and 30-14 to win by 44 points, the largest winning margin for the Irish under the new rally scoring method.

Notre Dame utilizing its front row strength to dominate at the net:

The 2001 Irish team posted a 3.42 blocks-per-game average, second to just the ’85 (3.51) and ’88 (3.57) teams.

Entering this weekend’s match, the Irish are averaging 3.74 blocks per game this season.

Front row specialists Malinda Goralski, Kristy Kreher and Marcie Bomhack graduated last season, but a talented freshman class, combined with some experienced front line players, have shown the ability to improve the Irish defense at the net. In the first 26 matches of the 2002 season, Notre Dame dominated at the net to collect 337 team blocks and have failed to post more than 10 team blocks in just five matches this season (vs. Colorado, at St. John’s, at Hawai’i-Oct. 22, at Illinois State, vs. Providence).

Try to hit through this front line:

Notre Dame’s blocking prowess has been well documented this season, but the Irish have some rotations that defy opposing teams to get a shot through. At certain times during a match, Katie Neff (6-5), Lauren Brewster (6-3) and Lauren Kelbley (6-2) are patrolling the net for the Irish defense. Add in 6-1 all-BIG EAST high jumper Emily Loomis and the Irish defensive wall becomes even more impressive.

Neff (86 blocks), Brewster (133), Kelbley (96) and Loomis (88) play a large role in Notre Dame’s 3.74 blocks-per-game average that was ranked first in the nation as of Nov. 11 – and has been ranked first in the nation for several weeks this season.

Brewster enjoying one of the top rookie seasons in Notre Dame volleyball history:

Freshman Lauren Brewster has been stacking up the blocks since she first stepped on the court against Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Aug. 30.

The rookie currently has 133 blocks (ranked fifth in the country as of Nov. 3), which puts her among the top five freshman at Notre Dame all-time in terms of blocks during their first season for the Irish:

Notre Dame freshman year block totals:

1. Mary Leffers, 160

2. Mary Kay Waller, 144

3. Lauren Brewster, 133

4. Jaimie Lee, 110

5. Jessica Fiebelkorn, 107

Brewster still has two regular-season matches left this season (and more possible matches during the post season).

Factor in any five-game matches and possible post season play for Notre dame, and Brewster could make a run at Leffer’s rookie season record.

Debbie Brown coaching is in her 12th year as the mentor of the Irish volleyball program:

Debbie Brown has guided the program throughout the 90’s and into the new century, developing the Irish into a volleyball power in the BIG EAST and one of the best programs in the nation. Brown is 297-99 (.750) and has earned numerous coach-of-the-year accolades throughout her 11 full years with the Irish, including the 2000 and 2001 BIG EAST Coach of the Year awards.

Brown also is closing in on her 300th victory with the Irish, which could come as quickly as the BIG EAST Championship in Pittsburgh, Pa., Nov. 23-24.

Notre Dame picked by league coaches to win its third-straight and seventh-overall BIG EAST Championship:

Notre Dame has been picked to win its third-straight league title this year, as voted by the conference head coaches. The Irish received 10 of 13 first-place votes, finishing ahead of Pittsburgh and Rutgers.

Two Irish players landed on the preseason all-BIG EAST squad. Junior setter Kristen Kinder, the 2001 BIG EAST Setter of the Year, and junior middle blocker Kim Fletcher made Notre Dame the only conference team represented by two players on the preseason all-BIG EAST team.

Pittsburgh’s Wendy Hatlestad was named the Preseason BIG EAST Player of the Year.

The top four teams in the conference (which includes 13 teams with the addition of Miami) will qualify for the 2002 BIG EAST Championship in Pittsburgh, Pa., on Nov. 23-24.

Notre Dame has won the last two conference championships, including last season’s showcase in Pittsburgh (defeating Georgetown in five games).

The Irish are currently 11-0 in the BIG EAST Conference this season.


The NCAA Women’s Volleyball Rules Committee has introduced another rule change that will have a large effect on how the game is played. After the introduction rally scoring in 2001, the 2002 season marks the beginning of the libero era in women’s collegiate volleyball.

A libero (designated back row player) will be allowed in the lineup for the 2002 season. A defensive specialist that does not count toward the team’s substitutions, the libero can freely replace any player that has rotated to the back row. Unlike traditional substitutions that are administered by the referee, the libero can enter the match any time there is a dead ball.

Since the libero is a defensive player, a certain restrictions have been established on the libero’s offensive capabilities. A libero only plays in the back row and cannot serve or attempt to block a shot. The libero cannot attack the ball above the net, nor can the libero set the ball with an overhead finger pass in the attack zone.

Once the libero comes out of the match, the player must wait at least one point before reentering.

Here is a quick look at Notre Dame’s last 35 match victories at home:

2000 –

Sept. 29, Villanova, W, 3-0

Oct. 1, Georgetown, W, 3-0

Oct. 20, Rutgers, W, 3-0

Oct. 22, Seton Hall, W, 3-0

Nov. 3, Boston College, W, 3-0

Nov. 4, North Carolina, W, 3-0

Nov. 7, Saint Louis, W, 3-0

Nov. 18, Connecticut, W, 3-0*

Nov. 19, Rutgers, W, 3-0*

2001 –

Aug. 31, SW Texas St., W, 3-0

Sept. 1, Florida Atlantic, W, 3-0

Sept. 1, Idaho, W, 3-1

Sept. 18, Valparaiso, W, 3-0

Sept. 22, Syracuse, W, 3-0

Sept. 28, Virginia Tech, W, 3-0

Sept. 30, Georgetown, W, 3-1

Oct. 12, Villanova, W, 3-0

Oct. 14, Rutgers, W, 3-0

Nov. 9, St. John’s, W, 3-0

Nov. 11, Seton Hall, W, 3-0

Nov. 14, Illinois State, W, 3-2

2002 –

Aug. 30, UW-Milwaukee, W, 3-0

Aug. 31, Cincinnati, W, 3-0

Sept. 1, Cal Poly, W, 3-0

Sept. 13, Northwestern, W, 3-0

Sept. 14, Loyola College, W, 3-0

Sept. 14, Pepperdine, W, 3-2

Sept. 21, Michigan, W, 3-1

Sept. 27, Connecticut, W, 3-1

Sept. 29, St. John’s, W, 3-1

Oct. 25, Pittsburgh, W, 3-1

Oct. 27, West Virginia, W, 3-1

Nov. 1, Providence, W, 3-0

Nov. 3, Boston College, W, 3-0

* – 2000 BIG EAST Championship