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Team drops NCAA match to Badgers

Mike Gilloon | Sunday, December 5, 2004

Notre Dame’s season came to an abrupt end Saturday as Wisconsin swept the Irish 36-34, 30-16, 30-16 in the second round of the NCAA volleyball tournament. The Irish avenged an early season loss to Valparaiso Friday in the first round, beating the Crusaders 30-21, 20-30, 30-28, 30-20, setting up Saturday’s showdown with the Badgers. Team captain Meg Henican was disappointed after the Irish lost in the second round of the NCAAs for the second time in three years. “We didn’t get all of our goals accomplished,” she said. “I wish we could have done a little better.”The Irish led by a score of 29-23 in the first game but could not convert on 10 consecutive game points against Wisconsin. Outside hitter Maria Carlini finished off the amazing Badger comeback when she spiked a kill through the Notre Dame defense for Wisconsin’s first two point lead of the game and the game one win. The 36-34 tally was the longest NCAA game the Irish have been a part of since rally scoring began in 2001. Wisconsin’s defense flustered the Irish offense, especially in game one. The Badgers had 15.5 blocks for the match, with 10 of those coming in game one. Middle blocker Sheila Shaw had eight blocks as Wisconsin held Notre Dame to a -.015 hitting percentage for the match. After the marathon Game 1 the Irish couldn’t keep up with the Badgers. They only had three blocks in the final two games combined and were forced into 33 errors by Wisconsin. Henican was one of the bright spots for the Irish, like she has been all season, as the libero’s 13 digs gave her a school-record 553 for the year. However, the accomplishment did not ease the pain of defeat. “That’s just something that goes with [playing the game],” she said. “It’s a nice pay off but it’s not what I focus on. I just want to win games.”Friday’s win over Valparaiso gave the Irish revenge after losing in five games to the Crusaders at the Joyce Center on September 7.It also helped Notre Dame advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the 10th time in the past 13 seasons. Henican’s 27 digs were the most ever for an Irish player in the NCAA tournament, passing Nicole Coates’ mark of 26 set against Minnesota in the round of 16 back in 1993.Middle blocker Lauren Brewster buoyed an Irish defense that held the Crusaders to a hitting percentage of .191. The junior matched her season-high with eleven blocks while senior Emily Loomis had ten blocks in her last victory in an Irish uniform.Brewster also led the team in hitting against Valparaiso with a percentage of .306. An all-Big East first team performer, she will lead an Irish squad next season that loses only one starter from this year’s team in Loomis.”I have huge expectations for next season,” Henican said. “We have a ton of returners and having another year of experience will be huge.”