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Practice doesn’t make perfect

Anne Loughery | Wednesday, September 8, 2004

After Monday’s practice, a win against Valparaiso seemed almost certain.

The Irish (1-3) thought they had remedied their offensive downfalls from last weekend’s Nebraska match and appeared ready to dominate against the Crusaders (4-1) Tuesday night.

“I thought they were extremely prepared,” coach Debbie Brown said.

Instead, Notre Dame played an uncharacteristically scrappy match against Valparaiso, resulting in an anticlimactic 3-2 Irish loss. Tuesday night’s win was the first the Crusaders have had against Notre Dame since 1980.

The typically articulate Brown had little to say following the match. She searched for words to describe the heartbreaking loss, pausing to collect her thoughts.

“The best thing I can say is that it was a huge, disappointing loss,” Brown said.

Notre Dame notched a 30-26 win in the first game, finishing the game with 23 kills and two aces. Junior Lauren Brewster led the team with a .429 hitting percentage.

Valparaiso stepped up its effort in the second game, besting Notre Dame 30-24. The Irish kept the Crusaders at arms length for the first half of the game, earning twelve points before Valparaiso took the lead.

Notre Dame became visibly frustrated as Valparaiso’s lead grew. The team recorded just 12 kills during the second game in comparison to the first game’s 23. Valparaiso, meanwhile, posted 17 kills.

Brown had only words of praise for Valparaiso.

“They played a very balanced attack,” Brown said. “We just didn’t play well in practically every aspect of the game. After the second game, our offense sputtered the rest of the night.”

The Irish seemed to bounce back during the third game, jumping to an early 3-1 lead. Valparaiso matched its efforts and kept the score tied for the majority of the game. However, the Irish hit a scoring drought as the Crusaders earned their 18th point. By the time Notre Dame’s offense surged back, Valparaiso held a 24-21 lead. The Irish chipped away at that lead, but were unable to regain the tempo of the match and lost 30-26.

In the fourth game, the Irish turned the tables on the Crusaders, registering a 30-24 victory. Freshman Adrianna Stasiuk and sophomore Danielle Herndon each contributed an ace to the Irish effort, while Lauren Kelbley led the team with five kills and 12 attack attempts. Kelbley matched her career high Tuesday night, leading the team with 22 kills. She finished the night with a .365 hitting percentage, nine digs, and a pair of aces.

In the fifth game, Valparaiso took the wind out of Notre Dame’s sails for good. Valparaiso broke the late-game 12-12 tie, collecting three consecutive points to pull ahead 15-12 for the win.

Brown said that the team’s mindset was what set off the loss.

“As a team, we weren’t good; we fell pretty flat,” Brown said. “It was very frustrating to watch. I know what our team is capable of, and the team was playing at a level below their performance ability.”

The Irish are set to take the courts again this weekend, when they will meet Fresno State Friday and Sacramento State and Cal Poly on Saturday.