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Swept Away

Heather VanHoegarden | Monday, November 24, 2003

What a difference a day makes.Notre Dame registered 17 blocks, including eight in the first game to defeat Miami 3-1 Saturday. Sunday, however, was another story. The Irish had only 12 blocks and were swept right out of the Joyce Center by Pittsburgh, 3-0 (20-30, 26-30, 29-31).No. 17 Notre Dame lost a Big East match at home for the first time in 62 matches and the second time in Big East Tournament play since joining the conference in 1995. Notre Dame also lost its second straight match to Pittsburgh, the first coming exactly a week ago from Sunday.”I think Pittsburgh played very well,” Irish head coach Debbie Brown said. “I was really impressed. I think they were very focused, they had a game plan and they went after it. They were very strong offensively and I just give them a lot of credit.”The Panthers’ attack was too much for the Irish, as they hit .329 on the match. Pittsburgh was led by Megan Miller, who hit a scorching .545 en route to 20 kills. She also added five digs and was in on four blocks. Sara Rollman added 17 kills on .341 hitting and eight digs, while Wendy Hatlestad added 15 kills and 11 digs.With the win, the Panthers receive the Big East’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.Although Notre Dame had 12 blocks, they were unable to get touches on the Panthers’ attacks.”Our defense is where it broke down because we couldn’t stop them,” Brown said. “It was a combination of us not blocking as well as we usually do, not playing nearly as good of defense as yesterday and again, they didn’t make the errors.”Brown was referring to the match against Miami, in which the Irish hit .275 compared to the Hurricanes’ .144. Lauren Brewster led the Irish with 16 kills on .500 hitting and was in on 11 blocks. Jessica Kinder (13 kills, 16 digs) and Emily Loomis (13 kills, 8 digs, in on 7 blocks) also contributed. Senior setter Kristen Kinder had 47 assists.But Sunday was a different story, as the Irish were forced to play catch-up the whole match. They never put together a run of more than four points and were unable to score on their serves.”I think we played frustrated today,” Brown said. “We do rely on our block a lot and with that a lot of times we can score points on runs – but we didn’t have any big runs.”The Irish found themselves struggling to keep up with the Panthers’ volatile offense. As a result, they lost the match in straight games.”Winning the points when we’re serving, that’s what’s going to win the match,” Brown said. “We didn’t do that effectively.”Pittsburgh received the Notre Dame serves well, setting the offense up for their hitters.”The serving game was very important for us,” Brown said. “What [the number of errors] didn’t show was that we didn’t serve tough enough. [Pittsburgh] passed very well and they were able to run a very efficient offense.”Loomis led the Irish with 14 kills and five digs. Brewster added nine kills and was in on five blocks. Senior Katie Neff had seven kills on .368 hitting and was in on five bocks.Senior setter Kristen Kinder had 38 assists, eight digs and five kills on the match. As a team, the Irish only hit .214 on the match, below their season average of .257.