Oct. 14, 2001
The University of Notre Dame volleyball team strengthened its position as the top team in the BIG EAST Conference this season with a three-game victory (30-22, 30-23, 33-31) over Rutgers (9-4, 4-1) at the Joyce Center on Sunday afternoon. The Irish, who entered the match ranked 21st in the nation, are now 12-3 on the season, 7-0 in the BIG EAST and will take a nine-match win streak on the road Tuesday, Oct. 16, to face 16th-ranked Northern Iowa.
Rutgers entered the match undefeated in conference competition and holding on to second place in the league, but the Irish brought their “A” game into the match to earn their 40th consecutive BIG EAST regular season match. Notre Dame is now 41-0 at home in BIG EAST regular-season contests and boast an exceptional 72-2 conference regular-season mark since joining the league in 1995.
Senior Kristy Kreher led the Notre Dame offense with 17 kills, followed by sophomore Kim Fletcher (14) and senior middle blocker Malinda Goralski (10). Kreher also hit .577 in the match, committing just two attack errors on 26 swings.
The home team came out hot in the first game, jumping out to a 12-5 lead before Rutgers had a chance to catch their breath. Kreher scored three kills over the streak, while Fletcher added three kills of her own and a solo block.
The Irish kept control of the game and built a 23-13 lead, but the Scarlet Knights fought back behind the attack of Shayla Bush. One of the top outside hitters in the BIG EAST, Bush scored three kills over a six-point stretch to pull her team within five points of Notre Dame.
A block and a kill from Goralski stopped the Rutgers scoring streak and a service ace by junior Janie Alderete on game point provided Notre Dame with a 1-0 advantage in the match.
Once again, the Irish got on the board first in game two behind an ace and a kill from freshman Emily Loomis. Rutgers would come back quickly this time, with three consecutive kills to tie the game at 3-3.
Notre Dame responded by going to its two big hitters in the match, Kreher and Fletcher. Kreher knocked down two consecutive attacks to put the Irish up 5-3, then Fletcher scored a kill to give her team a three-point lead.
The Scarlet Knights refused to wilt under the Irish surge. Trading kills back-and-forth, Rutgers finally scratched together enough points to pull into a tie at 11-11. The Notre Dame offense turned back to its top gun, and Kreher would answer the call. With two kills and two block assists (with Fletcher), the senior opposite played a hand in four consecutive points to give her team a four-point cushion.
Notre Dame would not let the competition back into the game after Kreher’s burst and eventually went ahead 2-0 in the match with a 30-23 game victory.
Game three would end up as a nip and tuck battle until the final kill. Neither team enjoyed more than a two-point lead until Notre Dame finally shot ahead 25-22 behind two Goralski kills and a Rutgers hitting error.
The Irish lead would build to as many as four points, including a 29-25 count at match point. Once again, the Scarlet Knights battled to get back into the game. Four consecutive kills by four different Rutgers players and a team block transformed Notre Dame’s comfortable four-point lead into a one-point deficit.
Notre Dame turned to Fletcher this time to tie the game, and the second-year middle blocker responded by slamming down a kill off the slide. Senior co-captain Marcie Bomhack then stepped back to serve and scored an ace to recapture the lead.
Rutgers setter Pualani Tuyay followed with a tip-kill to tie up the game again, but Fletcher responded with a kill and Irish setter Kristen Kinder performed a solo block on game point to win the match.
It was a thrilling ending to Notre Dame’s last home match for 26 days. The Irish will hit the road for six consecutive matches, including Tuesday’s meeting with #16 Northern Iowa. Notre Dame will be back in the Joyce Center on Nov. 9 to take on St. John’s.