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Irish lose regular season title

Heather VanHoegarden | Monday, November 17, 2003

Motivation comes from unlikely sources. No. 12 Notre Dame found this out Sunday afternoon in a five game loss to Pittsburgh (22-4, 11-1).The loss (20-30, 30-26, 30-25, 13-30, 15-13) was one that thrust Pittsburgh into a tie with the Irish (22-4, 11-1) for the regular season Big East title, and gave them the No. 1 seed in this weekend’s Big East tournament.But there’s no doubt about it, the Irish are quite disappointed after a match that saw their offense falter and their play sporadic. It was the first time the Irish lost to the Panthers since 1990, a streak that extended for 15 games before Sunday.”I think that we’re really down right now,” head coach Debbie Brown said. “But if it’s not as much motivation as could possibly be given to turn it around to come back in the championships … I don’t know of anything else that could be more motivating, really.”The Irish were unable to sustain any momentum in the match which saw the Irish win by the largest margin this season (17 points) in the fourth game, when they had just one error on 19 attempts, good for a .632 attack percentage.”I think it was sporadic play,” Brown said. “I think we just did certain things that were uncharacteristic of our team – we gave up some points that we haven’t before.”The Irish led 7-4 in the final game before the Panthers tied it 8-8 and went on to win the match.”I certainly would like to have that match back and have the regular season title, but we just have to bounce back and win the championship tournament,” Brown said.Sophomore middle blocker Lauren Brewster led the way for the Irish with 21 kills and 10 blocks, and senior setter Kristen Kinder dished out 51 assists to go with a season-high 15 digs. Libero Meg Henican had a career-high 25 digs.But the Irish offense wasn’t itself at Pittsburgh, as they finished the match hitting only .215, with a .000 hitting percentage in game three.”I can’t really pinpoint it on any one thing,” Brown said. “On offense, we struggled a little bit, but I think it was just a lack of us staying at a high level of play throughout the match.”The Irish will have to turn things around before this weekend, as they face No. 3 seed Miami in the first round on Saturday.”There are a lot of little things that we can work on,” Brown said. “So I think that I don’t doubt our ability to come back and play at a higher level than we did and that’s to take nothing away from Pittsburgh; I thought they played very well.”One positive on the night for the Irish was their blocking. They finished with 22.5 on the match, a season high. Lauren Kelbey and Emily Loomis were both in on eight for the Irish, who were disappointed with the loss.”We certainly wanted to win the regular season title,” Brown said. “This stings pretty badly. Hopefully we can come back and at least win the championship.”