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No. 2 Nebraska zooms past Irish despite solid effort

Mike Gilloon | Monday, September 6, 2004

In the drag race of college volleyball, Nebraska is one of the faster cars. Notre Dame can move quickly too, but this weekend the Irish couldn’t keep up with the Cornhuskers.

No. 2 ranked Nebraska came away with a pair of victories in matches held Friday and Saturday night in the Joyce Center against the No. 24 Irish.

The Cornhuskers won Friday in three games 30-19, 30-28, 30-24 while they needed the full five games to put away the Irish on Saturday 30-23, 26-30, 24-30, 30-19, 15-10.

Irish middle blocker Lauren Brewster came away with mixed emotions about Notre Dame’s performance this weekend.

“I was really frustrated with our play in the first match, but in the second match we almost had it,” she said. “We are excited to come back tomorrow and work on our mistakes in practice.”

Friday’s match showcased a hustling Notre Dame squad matched against a talented Nebraska team in front of 1,609 fans, the second largest non-pep rally crowd in Irish volleyball history. Nebraska won the first game 30-19 with a very strong effort from 6-foot-5 freshman Sarah Pavan. Pavan had six kills in her first collegiate game and ended up with a team high 16 for the match.

The two teams traded points most of the way throughout game two. It looked like Notre Dame was ready to pick up the victory when Irish setter Ashley Tarutis lofted the ball over the net and out of Nebraska’s reach to tie the score at 28. The Cornhuskers, however, stopped the Irish momentum and scored the next two points to seal game two.

After the Irish tied game three at 7 early on, the Cornhuskers went on a 12-5 run to seal the game and match victory. Nebraska relied on outside hitter Dani Mancuso and middle blocker Melissa Elmer in the third game to play solid defense and prevent many Irish spikes from hitting the ground.

Brewster said there is a lot to learn from playing a team of Nebraska’s caliber this early in the season.

“With two freshmen starting for us we haven’t played together very much,” she said. “Playing a team like Nebraska this early on helps us learn each other’s weaknesses and strengths.”

Notre Dame played much better Saturday night as they took Nebraska to the brink of defeat before losing the fifth game. The Irish had a good shot at an upset as Nebraska only led 11-10 in game five before kills by Pavan and Cornhusker outside hitter Jennifer Saleaumua cemented the win for Nebraska.

The Irish led 2-1 after three games and were anticipating an upset thanks to the play of Tarutis and Brewster. Tarutis had six kills and fourteen digs while setting up a season high 51 assists. Brewster had eighteen kills, seven blocks and five digs to pace the Irish.

The Nebraska win made it five in a row for the Cornhuskers over Notre Dame.

Notre Dame’s next match will be against Valparaiso Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Joyce Center. This will be the last home match until mid-October for the Irish, as they will soon depart on a five-week road trip.