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ND Volleyball: Brown closes in on No. 500

Kyle Cassily | Monday, September 25, 2006

Notre Dame advanced two wins closer to its 11th Big East regular season title with a pair of conference season-opening victories this weekend – leaving Irish coach Debbie Brown one win shy of a major milestone.

The Irish (8-5, 2-0 Big East) defeated the Scarlet Knights 3-0 Saturday before coming from behind to beat the Wildcats 3-1 Sunday on the road.

Brown earned her 499th career win over Villanova and will lead her squad Saturday against Seton Hall in search of No. 500.

“It was pretty close, pretty tough competition,” Brown said. “We had a couple very close games overall. We played pretty well for the weekend – our offense was much, much, much improved.”

Junior captain Adrianna Stasiuk had 26 kills and 25 digs in the two matches, including a match-high 14 kills against Rutgers. Stasiuk recorded a double-double (kills and digs) in each match.

“[Stasiuk] had a very good weekend – she was really effective offensively,” Brown said. “She hit a lot of different shots and played good defensively as well. She had a good solid, all-around performance for us. She was a vocal leader this weekend.”

Notre Dame 3, Rutgers 0

Stasiuk recorded a .733 kill percentage in Notre Dame’s 30-23, 30-13, 30-16 sweep of the Scarlet Knights.

The Irish opened up a 16-7 lead in the third game and never let Rutgers cut the score closer than nine points to take the game and match.

Freshman Megan Fesl and sophomore Mallorie Croals contributed kills in the third game, before Stasiuk ended it with a kill.

“We started very aggressively,” Brown said. “They had trouble running their offense because we put a lot of pressure on them with our serve. We received their serve very well.”

The first game began with a dominant Irish performance as well, as Notre Dame went on a 9-1 run to start. Rutgers, however, cut the lead to 22-21 after an 11-2 streak.

The Irish answered with an 8-2 run to cut off any chance of a Scarlet Knight comeback and Notre Dame took the 1-0 lead on back-to-back Stasiuk kills.

Junior Ashley Tarutis won the second game in dominant fashion with a service ace. The Irish led 15-6 halfway through and never looked back.

Freshman Jamel Nicholas led both teams in assists with 21 and blasted four service aces.

Notre Dame 3, Villanova 1

Croall and freshman Christina Kaelin propelled the Irish 35-37, 30-24, 33-31, 30-18 with 15 kills apiece against the Wildcats.

Croall recorded 14 digs and had a .462 kill percentage in the four-game match. Freshman Serinity Phillips had a strong day on the attack, putting 13 kills past the Villanova defense. This was a career-high for the outside hitter.

“Croall didn’t start in either match, she played the third game against Rutgers and the last three against Villanova and was a very steady and a very smart player,” Brown said. “The lift that she gave us off the bench was tremendous.”

Notre Dame dropped a marathon first game, before rallying for three straight to take the match. In the first game, the Irish and Wildcats tied the Notre Dame single game record for total points scored – matching the 72 recorded in a 37-35 win over Eastern Washington Aug. 30, 2003.

“It was a hard fought match,” Brown said. “They played us very tough, but the main thing was we maintained composure. And we had a really good attitude about what was going on in the court even though we weren’t executing perfectly.”

The Irish take on Seton Hall in Big East play Saturday afternoon in New Jersey.