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ND Volleyball: Notre Dame falls in Big East final

Joe Meixell | Monday, November 20, 2006

In a rematch of last year’s Big East Championship, Notre Dame was unable to upset two-seed Louisville and secure itself an NCAA Tournament berth in the 30-26, 30-25, 24-30, 17-30, 12-15 loss in Cincinnati Sunday.

Earlier in the tournament, the Irish toppled impressive opponents who had dominated Notre Dame earlier in the season. Every team that Notre Dame played in the Big East tournament had won 3-0 in the regular season.

“When you look at the three teams we played, during only one game against them did we have our regular starting line up with Adrianna coming out in the first game against St. Johns,” Irish coach Debbie Brown said. “That was a pretty major reason why they were able to beat us.”

By the time Notre Dame got to meet these teams again, the team was healed up, finely tuned, and ready to take on the best in the conference.

Notre Dame 3, Cincinnati 2

Notre Dame won their first five-game match all season to advance past Cincinnati in the 30-28, 25-30, 28-30, 30-26, 15-9 upset. Having lost in fifth-game heartbreakers early in the season to Missouri and Northern Iowa, the Irish displayed great progress as they were able to win the last two games of the match and send the Bearcats home winless.

Sophomore Mallorie Croal and Junior Adrianna Stasiuk were offensive forces, with Croal notching 25 kills and Stasiuk registering 23. Stasiuk also had 26 digs, second only to senior libero Danielle Herndon’s 34.

The Cincinnati offense was led by Jessie Nevitt’s 20 kills at a hitting percentage of .306. Jaime Frey had 37 digs.

Taking a timeout late in the fourth game, Notre Dame found themselves down 17-24 in a must-win situation. Kills from Croal and freshman Christina Kaelin helped the Irish to a 13-2 run. Consecutive blocks from freshman Kim Kristoff and a service ace from Croal sealed the game for Notre Dame.

In the fifth game, Notre Dame maintained their momentum and came out to a 10-3 lead early. A Stasiuk kill put the final nail in the coffin for Cincinnati and put Notre Dame into the semifinals to face 24th ranked St. Johns.

Notre Dame 3, St. John’s 1

Hype was not enough for St. Johns to trample over Notre Dame for a second time this season as they came up short in the Irish’s 30-23, 30-28, 28-30, 30-20 win. Led by Croal’s 16 kills at a hitting percentage of .361, Notre Dame played well to give St. Johns its second loss this season. Freshman Serenity Phillips was an important facet of the Notre Dame victory with 14 kills and 8 blocks. Herndon led in digs with 24.

After a Stasiuk service error lost Notre Dame game three, the Irish went into their fourth game still up 2-1. A kill from Croal convinced St. Johns to take a time out and try to regroup, but Notre Dame went on a 8-4 run to widen their lead to 20-10. Notre Dame held on to this lead until a kill from sophomore Justine Stremick won the game and match.

Louisville 3, Notre Dame 2

Notre Dame could not manage to pull off another five-game victory this weekend in the 30-26, 30-25, 24-30, 17-30, 12-15 loss to Louisville. Kaelin led the losing effort with 18 wins, hitting at .222. Herndon fueled the defensive game with 23 digs.

“We were mainly concerned with their outside hitters,” Coach Brown explained of Louisville, “They get a majority of the sets. We made good adjustments, which is the key to have good success.” The Irish still had trouble containing Louisville freshman Tatyana Kolesnikova who scored 21 digs and had three service aces in the match. Notre Dame took charge at the start of the championship match, taking both of the first two games.

Then the Irish hit a wall as the Cardinals were able to put together an 8-2 run to lead in the third match 22-14. Notre Dame battled back with a 5-3 run, but could not prevent the kill from Stephanie Marsh which sealed game three for Louisville.

Louisville opened up game four with a lot of momentum coming into a 5-1 lead early. A kill from Croal kicked off a Notre Dame 5-1 run to tie the game back up. Kolesnikova led a 9-1 Louisville run that gave the Cardinals the 20-11 lead they needed to win the game. A service ace from Kolesnikova ended the fourth game in dominant fashion to leave both teams tied at 2 games apiece, with only fifteen points left to determine the Championship.

Louisville established another 5-1 lead in the fifth game, but this time it took the Irish much more effort to work back to a 10-10 tie. After a Louisville timeout, back to back kills from Jana Matiasovska allowed the Cardinals to creep ahead and win the Big East title with a final kill from Kristie Wetterer.

“I’m really, really proud of the team” Brown said. “We battled all the way to the end and were really playing better volleyball then we were two weeks ago, even last week.”