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Tigers prove tough to handle

Tom Dorwart | Monday, September 19, 2005

They lost.

And they’re still a tight-knit team – a team that’s undefeated in the Big East, a team that has beaten two top-10 teams and a team that, for one weekend, wasn’t itself.

“It wasn’t one of our better executing performances,” Irish coach Debbie Brown said of her team’s performance Sunday against LSU. “It was a little bit sloppy. I still think that the fight was very good.”

Finally, after starting the season 7-0, the No. 8 Irish (7-1) lost. They fell 28-30, 22-30, 30-23, 30-26, 18-20 to LSU (10-1) in an instant classic Sunday morning.

“I thought we did a really good job of coming back,” Brown said. “It was a battle. We came up on the short end unfortunately.”

On Friday, Notre Dame eased past Tulane (1-2) 30-23, 30-26, 30-26 in what Brown called another “sloppily” played match.

“We were really not pleased at all with the way we played on Friday even though we won,” she said. “That sloppiness sometimes carries over.”

It carried over well into Sunday morning.

The Tigers outplayed the Irish in most facets of the game. The Irish, who are the only Division-I team ranked in the top 10 in both digs and blocks, faltered on defense for much of the day.

LSU beat Notre Dame in those categories. One standout on defense, though, was sophomore libero Adrianna Stasiuk, who had 25 digs – the third time this season she has accomplished the feat.

The Tigers also had 25 more kills than the normally dominant Irish.

Notre Dame freshman Mallorie Croal had a career-high day. She smashed 19 kills and hustled for 16 digs. She added four blocks to her strong outing. Senior Lauren Brewster got her fair share of kills, as well, with 14. Fellow senior Lauren Kelbley had 10 kills, while Meg Henican and Carolyn Cooper combined for 14 more.

While the defense sputtered at times, the offense was effective, besides being out-blocked. Notre Dame had more service aces than errors, and it served at an incredibly accurate 94.6 percent efficiency rate in the match.

On Friday, the Irish played an emotional Green Wave squad. Tulane had not played a match in a little under three weeks. Still, Notre Dame swept the Wave to improve to 7-0. Kelbley pounded 15 kills. She led the team with 21 points, hit at a season-high mark [.412] and smacked her kills without a single error.

Stasiuk played at outside hitter instead of playing at libero and had 19 digs.

Just as they were in Sunday’s match, the Irish were at the top of their service game against the Wave. They registered 12 aces.

With the win and a nail biter of a loss, the Irish aren’t moping around. They’re still off to one of the best starts in school history.

“We win as a team, and we lose as a team,” Brown said. “[After the weekend matches] I think we just talked about maximizing the opportunities we have out on the court. Whether it’s at practice or whether it’s playing [in a match]. Every time we get on the court we have to be getting better; we have to be getting smarter.”