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Irish win big in season opener

Heather VanHoegarden | Wednesday, September 10, 2003

The Irish gave the home crowd something to cheer about Tuesday night, as they handed the Valparaiso Crusaders their first loss of the season.

No. 15 Notre Dame (5-1) swept Valparaiso (8-1) right off the court, winning 30-21, 30-17 and 32-30.

“It is great to be home,” coach Debbie Brown said after the game. “We were on the road for a very long time.”

The Irish shined in the home opener, once again dominating at the nets. Notre Dame finished with 62 kills to Valparaiso’s 37. Emily Loomis led the way for the Irish with 24 kills on .574 hitting percentage.

Loomis was joined by Big East Player of the Week Lauren Kelbley, who had 11 kills in the first two games. She did not play the third game.

“We had the opportunity to play everybody today,” Brown said.

Senior Jessica Kinder set a school record with 28 digs on the match. She was joined by Meg Henican, who had 14 digs to go along with three kills.

Senior setter Kristen Kinder led the attack with 35 assists and only one ball handling error. She also had eight digs in the three games.

Sophomore middle blocker Lauren Brewster contributed eight kills as well.

The Irish had trouble finishing the match after dominating the first two games. Game one began with a 13-5 Irish lead. This was too much for the Crusaders to overcome, as Loomis had eight kills in the game.

Game two looked to be more of a challenge for the Irish, as Valparaiso was within one point at 11-10. However, Kelbley put together a string of serves, including two aces that put the Irish up 15-10. After that, the Irish never looked back.

In game three, Notre Dame got off to a slow start once again. However, unlike the previous game, the Irish couldn’t break it open, as the Crusaders were winning most of the way.

With the score 24-20 in favor of Valparaiso, Loomis put the ball away, and proceeded to serve three straight points to bring the Irish within one. She tied the game at 30 a few minutes later, and senior Kim Fletcher put the Irish ahead 31-30; Loomis then finished Valparaiso off.

“In game three, we made a lot of unforced errors,” Brown said. “That was a little disappointing, but hopefully it’s a learning experience for us and we don’t repeat that.”

The Irish will take the win, but they are not yet satisfied with their play.

“We can definitely play at a higher level,” Brown said. “What we were looking for is really steady play from start to finish.”