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Club Sports: Volleyball upsets No. 5 Illini, takes fifth place in tournament

Joe Meixell | Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Men’s Volleyball

The Men’s Volleyball club traveled to Indiana University to play in the annual Hoosier-Illini Classic, the biggest season tournament on the team’s schedule. The Classic drew 40 teams from all over the country.

The Irish began pool play Saturday morning with two tough losses to top-25 teams. In their first match, No. 5 Illinois swept the Irish, 25-21, 25-19. In the following match, mental errors led to an Irish defeat versus No. 17 Utah, 25-23, 25-16.

With two games left for the day, the fate of the Irish was in doubt.

In the team’s final pool-play meeting, Notre Dame quickly put away Wisconsin-B 25-17, 25-16. Sparked by junior opposite hitter Mike Toomey, the Irish played their best volleyball of the tournament and got the first win of an eventual four-game win streak.

Finishing 2-1 in pool play and in third place, the next cross-over match against Cincinnati was critical if the Irish planned on advancing to the Gold Division for the first time in three years.

Notre Dame played aggressive volleyball, as the Irish surprised the Bearcats and took the first game 25-19. Led by sophomore Dan Zibton, the Irish pulled through in game two and edged out Cincinnati 27-25.

In their first Gold Division match, the Irish faced No. 15 Ohio State. The Irish used a series of streaks behind the serving of Drew Williams and Ryan Flynn to dominate the Buckeyes and control the entire match. Notre Dame ended up winning 25-16, 25-16.

In the second round of play, the Irish would have a rematch with Illinois. Coming off of three solid performances after their loss to the Illini, The Irish jumped early on the Illini in the first game. Behind a combination of solid defense and a complex, forceful offense, the Irish won the game 25-23.

Game two was a completely different scenario. Playing point for point to 10-10, Illinois went on an eight point run behind incredible blocking and precise serving. The Irish dug themselves too big a hole, and ended up losing the second game 25-17.

In the short “sprint” to 15 in game three, it is crucial to get an early lead, which is exactly what the Irish did. Notre Dame used attacks from Williams, Toomey, and junior James Foresman to take an 8-3 lead. From there, the Irish played side-out ball with the Illini until Foresman put the final kill of the match down. With the upset over No. 5 Illinois, the Irish advanced to the quarterfinals of the tournament for the first time in team history.

The Irish now faced a hard-hitting UW-Whitewater. Although the Irish played great volleyball, UW-Whitewater was too much for the Irish. The Irish were defeated in two games 25-19, 25-20. Led by Drew Williams’ offense and defense, the Irish were able to claim fifth place in the highly regarded Hoosier-Illini Classic.

Cycling

A blend of veterans and first year racers represented Notre Dame at Depauw University this weekend. Freshman Andrew Steves captured first place in the men’s C road race, topping a field of 135 racers over the 26-mile course.

Captain Mike Lavery, Matt Prygoski, Geoff Gisler and Tim Campbell raced in the 36-mile men’s B road race, and stayed with the main pack until the last lap when multiple crashes caused by battles for position dropped the team behind the leaders. Campbell placed No. 20, Lavery No. 32, and Gisler No. 47 in a field of 115. Prygoski was victim of a crash that damaged his bike and he was unable to finish.

Meghan Johnson placed No. 40 among 70 racers in the women’s B division. Stuck behind a slower group, Johnson managed a very respectable finish in her first race for the Irish.

In Sunday’s Criterium, Steves was the top Irish finisher at No. 30 overall. Criterium races involve a large number of sprints on a very technical course, including a tight 180º turn.

Ultimate

The Notre Dame Ultimate Club traveled to Baton Rouge this weekend for the annual Mardi Gras tournament. Despite the wet and muddy fields, both the men’s and women’s teams played well during the two-day tournament. The women’s team started out strong, easily defeating their first two opponents, Truman St and TCU, 12-3 and 11-2 respectively.

The rain and wind on Saturday made the disc slippery and passes hard to throw or catch. However, that didn’t stop a huge layout score from sophomore Shields Duss during the TCU game. Senior Chris Dube was a dominant threat on the field during the games, both offensively and defensively. Great defensive play also came from freshmen, Mary Clare McGregor and Katie Bilek during the two games.

As the day went on, the field conditions became worse greatly affecting play as the women went into their third game against always strong Michigan. Despite sophomore Loretta Brown snagging some discs from the air to stop the flow of Michigan’s offense, the women still dropped the game 13-1.

Although the connections didn’t come for the Notre Dame offense, sophomore Libby Whiting’s play was a highlight as she competed in her first ultimate tournament. The final game of the day was against LSU. Although the game was short, Notre Dame took control winning 6-0. Excellent upwind throws from senior Lizzy Shiel made the wind not a factor in this game.

After a miscommunication from the tournament director about game time, the Notre Dame women’s team found themselves in the consolation bracket. This did not put a damper on their competitive attitude, however. The weather conditions on Sunday were much improved and the sun finally made an appearance.

The team’s opponent was sectional rival Indiana. The Irish shut out the Hoosiers, 10-0. Senior Kasey Farrell was a strong force in this game making impressive catches and stepping up as a handler. Junior Jeannie Joekel found her groove this game too and made a layout D to stop a score twice in the end zone along with some layouts on offense as well. Junior Rachel Meeks continually broke down the zone defense with her break mark passes and sharp throws.

The men’s field boasted 52 college teams competing on slippery fields as rain continued throughout play on Saturday. The Irish swept all four opponents on the day, defeating Arkansas B, Grinnell, Rice, and Florida B. Although the offense had difficulty catching the wet disc, the defense was stellar, led by freshmen Thomas Rivas and Ryan Gorman.

Sunday’s play began with a cross over game against Washington University with the winner advancing to the top 16 teams. Washington, taking advantage of the wind, fronted Notre Dame’s cutters for most of the game, but sophomores Nick Chambers and Michael Florack were able to use their speed and experience to get open. Despite the wind and a few upwind scores by Washington, the Irish pulled out an 10-9 victory.

This close win pitted Notre Dame against regional rival Michigan, the second seed in the tournament. The Irish opened up their roster up in an effort to gain more experience, while Michigan, with their deeper roster hammered away at the Irish.

Despite senior Barrs Lang and freshman Daniel Reimer controlling the skies with impressive defensive and offensive plays, Michigan won, ending the Irish play for the weekend. Handlers Andy Huffman and Jesse McGannon played well all weekend and look to be a real help to the handler-short Irish.

With rookies Sean O’Keeffe, Jeff Osowski, Sean Gaffney, Danny Collom, and Mike Savino cutting hard all weekend and making great defensive plays, the Irish took a huge step toward powerhouse status in the Great Lakes region.