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Irish drop invitational final to South Carolina

Mike Gilloon | Monday, September 20, 2004

Many volleyball experts expected the Irish to lose to USC this weekend, but they weren’t thinking of South Carolina.The No. 2 Trojans withdrew from the Gamecock Invitational in Columbia, S.C. this weekend because of Hurricane Ivan. In their absence, host school South Carolina defeated Notre Dame in four games, 30-28, 25-30, 30-22, 30-23 Sunday afternoon to win the tournament and deny Notre Dame the invite championship after the Irish beat Michigan State 30-22, 24-30, 30-21, 30-19 on Friday. The loss to the Gamecocks came despite another fine effort from middle blocker Lauren Brewster. The reigning Big East Player of the Week, Brewster had two excellent matches this weekend. She led the team in five statistical categories against Michigan State while her six aces against South Carolina, with four coming on a single rotation in the third game, were the most by an Irish player since Angie Harris had a school-record nine against Syracuse in 1995.Brewster’s efforts put her on the all-tournament team along with teammate Ashley Tarutis. The win over Michigan State was the first for Notre Dame over the Spartans since 1994.Two aces by Adrianna Stasiuk, five kills from outside hitter Ellen Heintzman and a game-clinching ace by Meg Henican helped to serve up game one up for the Irish.Michigan State darted out to leads of 14-8 and 25-12 in game two with seven kills from Kim Schram and 15 assists by Maggie Griffin. Brewster helped the Irish keep it close with her five kills, but Schram’s final kill evened the match for Michigan State. Notre Dame constructed an 11-6 lead in the third game before the Spartans trimmed the Irish lead to 13-12. Five kills each from Heintzman and Brewster enabled the Irish pull away for a 2-1 match lead. The Irish never trailed in the fourth game as they out hit Michigan State .268- .062 and pulled away for the 30-19 victory.The Irish jumped out to an early 13-5 lead in the first game of Sunday’s championship match against South Carolina, but the Gamecocks would not go away. They went ahead on a 17-4 run before Lynae Vanden Hull’s final kill delivered the game one win to South Carolina. The second game saw the Irish record 21 kills along with a .409 hitting percentage as Notre Dame led from the start and never looked back. The Irish played their best game of the match, committing only three errors, to even the score at one game apiece. In game three, it was the Gamecocks’ turn to start quickly as they built a 6-2 advantage before Lauren Brewster’s four aces propelled the Irish to a 9-6 lead. The teams gave up little ground to each other during the middle of the game until South Carolina won seven straight points, behind two aces from Vanden Hull, to go ahead 25-17. South Carolina led by as much as nine early in the fourth game, but the Irish fought back late to cut the deficit to only 25-22.That would be as close as it got though as the Gamecocks ran away in the end to win the match and the tournament title.