The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



New lineup, same result in loss

Matt Lozar | Tuesday, December 2, 2003

PALO ALTO, Calif. – After losing three of their last five, including the Big East Championship, Notre Dame coach Debbie Brown decided her team needed a new lineup heading into Saturday’s match at No. 6 Stanford. But when it came right down to it, the Cardinal simply executed better.

The Irish (23-6) lost 30-28, 30-24, 30-24 at Stanford in their last regular season match of the 2003 season.

“I don’t think it’s easy to sum up. I think what it comes down to is the team that made the fewest number of errors [won],” Brown said. “Stanford played steady throughout, we played okay in games one and two but then obviously not in game three.”

The pairings for the NCAA Tournament came out Sunday and the Irish will be going to the University of Illinois where the Illini are the 15th seed in the Tournament. Notre Dame will play Louisville in the first round. The four-team sub-regional where the Irish are playing is the only bracket with three teams ranked in the top 20.

Brown switched around her lineup for Saturday’s game by putting Jessica Kinder opposite her sister, setter Kristen Kinder. Lauren Kelbley moved to the outside hitter while Emily Loomis moved to inside to middle blocker.

[The new lineup] was really good, we just needed better execution,” Jessica Kinder said. “Everybody wanted it so badly, we just weren’t making the plays.”

The Cardinal (23-6) were led by U.S. National Team member Ogonna Nnamani’s 23 kills and .409 hitting percentage. Whenever Nnamani was on the front row, Stanford ran its offense through her. The junior and two-time All-American just overpowered the Notre Dame block, which is ranked first in the country averaging 3.76 blocks per game.

“She is very good, she is a phenomenal athlete and a great person too,” Brown said. “She is very hard to defend and she is an explosive player.”

In the first two games, the Irish came out strong, hitting .293 and .303, but the Cardinal were just a little bit better, hitting .310 and .373. Early in all three games, Notre Dame took the lead, but Stanford was able to stay close and eventually take command of each game.

Down 2-0, the Irish wanted to come out in game three and establish an early presence. However, it turned out to be their worst game of the match. The Irish committed 10 errors in the game and hit ,079.

Despite the number of mistakes in game three, the Irish stayed close and had their chances late in the game, being up 21-20, but they couldn’t take advantage and let Stanford pull away.

“I think we were looking in game three to come out and be a step better than that. But Stanford took it to us a little bit more in that game than they did before,” Brown said.

“Certainly it wasn’t a good game three, but we didn’t feel like it was over. We felt like we could still compete to the end, but we didn’t come through in game three when it was the most critical.”

Kelbley led the Irish with 10 kills. Kristen Kinder and Lauren Brewster tied for the game high in blocks with 10. Meg Henican recorded 10 digs.

Traditionally before the NCAA Tournament, the Irish travel to a top opponent in preparation for postseason play. Going to Stanford allowed Brown to try her new lineup, which she plans to use in the NCAA Tournament, against a top 10 team and see what her team needs to improve on when it’s a do-or-die situation.

“It is a new lineup, we switched some people around, and we feel the team was very committed and we felt it was the right move to make,” Brown said. “I think we need to play a top 10 team, right before going into the NCAA [Tournament].

“The main thing is to continue to learn and to continue to get better. The season isn’t over. We certainly haven’t peaked.”