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WOMEN’S VOLLEYBALL: Irish stun No. 10 Wildcats

Heather VanHoegarden | Monday, September 1, 2003

Teams can only hope to start the season by playing well. The Irish took this a step further to knock off No. 10 Arizona in their season opener Friday night.

The Irish upended the Wildcats in four games (30-18, 28-30, 30-20, 30-26) at the Four Points Sheraton Classic in Malibu, Calif.

“It was so much fun,” outside hitter Emily Loomis said. “We just brought a lot of energy to the match, and it paid off.”

The Irish took advantage of their new 6-2 rotation that utilizes two setters to come away with a .324 hitting percentage. The Wildcats hit a mere .100 on the match.

Kristen Kinder and Kelly Burrell led the attack with 43 assists, 26 for Kinder and 17 for Burrell. Neither committed a handling error.

“Everyone worked hard through the match, and it showed,” Loomis said. “We really came together, and that is why we were so successful.”

Middle blocker Lauren Kelbley led the way on offense with 16 kills and only two errors (.424 hitting percentage). Loomis finished with 14 kills with a .522 hitting percentage.

Arizona was unable to match the Irish offensive attack, as they registered only eight kills in the first game. The defense of the Irish, led by Jessica Kinder (10 digs) and Meg Henican (10 digs), also shone, as the Irish notched nine blocks as a team.

Coach Deb Brown saw the Irish win their season opener for the 13th straight year.

However, Saturday’s match presented another challenge for the Irish as they faced the Waves of No. 5 Pepperdine, who proved too much for the Irish, as they defeated Notre Dame in four games (27-30, 30-22, 30-15, 30-23).

Despite a hot start in the opening game, the Irish were unable to maintain the charge.

“Too many pieces broke down after the first game,” Loomis said. “We didn’t back each other up like the first game.”

The Irish attack started the first game with 17 kills and only two errors, good for a scorching .469 hitting percentage. However, they couldn’t sustain the momentum, hitting only .122 the next three games.

Leading the way for the Irish was middle blocker Lauren Brewster (17 kills, .483 attack percentage), Kelbley (12 kills) and Loomis (10 kills).

“We were a little disappointed,” Loomis said. “You never want to lose, but we can take a lot from this loss.”

However, there was no shame in losing to the Waves, who currently carry the highest ranking in the history of their program. Pepperdine avenged last year’s loss to Notre Dame in the championship game of the Golden Dome Invitational.

“We just couldn’t turn it around in our favor,” Loomis said.

However, after the loss, the Irish rebounded against Eastern Washington. After pulling off a marathon first game victory, 37-35, Notre Dame prevailed in four games (37-35, 25-30, 30-22, 30-21).

“We came in with confidence, but we broke down,” Loomis said. “But, we fought hard and came back…We knew we could do it.”

Once again Loomis led the Irish with 18 kills. Katie Neff was right behind her with 15 kills. Loomis also dominatedat the net with five blocks, including two solos. The Irish had ten blocks as a team.

The Irish hope to continue the momentum this weekend at the Longhorn Classic in Austin, Texas.