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Irish split on Big East road trip

Ellyn Michalak and Pat O'Brien | Monday, October 1, 2007

Notre Dame once again split a weekend series, picking up its first shutout of the season against Seton Hall before dropping a nail-biter to Villanova in five games.

The Irish (6-8, 2-2 Big East) began the weekend by sweeping the Pirates 3-0 (30-19, 30-20, 30-25) Saturday, but ultimately fell 3-2 (21-30, 31-29, 30-27, 22-30, 17-15) in a close match Sunday against Villanova.

Against Seton Hall, the Irish had their best offensive match of the season. Senior setter Ashley Tarutis led with 25 assists and the highest kill percentage, successfully hitting six of seven balls. Fellow captain Adrianna Stasiuk posted nine kills, and freshman outside hitter Kellie Sciacca posted seven.

“We put a lot of hard work into our practice this week,” sophomore outside hitter Megan Fesl said. “We played really well. It was a really fun match.”

Seton Hall (10-7, 1-3 Big East) was led by the stellar play of freshman outside hitter Sarah Osmun. She racked up a game-high 19 kills along with nine digs. Sophomore outside hitter Stacey Craighead helped with 10 kills of her own while junior setter Brittany Rahrer had 37 assists.

Notre Dame could not celebrate its big win for long, however, as Villanova ended a 25-year drought against the Irish the next day. Notre Dame went 16-0 against Villanova since 1982.

In the fifth Irish match this season that has reached the deciding game, Notre Dame could not hold on at the end. The Irish, however, had momentum on their side after taking the fourth game in dominant fashion.

Their success carried over early on as they started the final game with a 5-0 lead – which is played to only 15 points. The Irish were three points away from victory at 12-8, when Villanova stepped on the throttle. Scoring nine of the last 12 points, the Wildcats stunned the crowd with the 17-15 comeback.

“Statistically, we beat [Villanova] in every category,” Fesl said. “It’s just little parts of our game that we need to refine better, but I would not say that our team collapsed. It was a hard fought battle, and we really know what details we need to fix.”

Sophomore outside hitter Serinity Phillips notched a career best 26 kills for the Irish, while Sciacca made an impressive 11 blocks. Three other players for Notre Dame notched double-digit kills – Fesl had 15, Stasiuk scored 14, and junior middle blocker Justine Stremick slapped down 12. Tarutis once again led with 38 assists and sophomore setter Jamel Nicholas saw some playing time while recording 21 helpers of her own.

Villanova (11-6, 3-1) was led by senior outside hitter Alona Cherkez. She posted team-highs with 26 kills and 24 digs. Junior outside hitter Dana Tartazky also had a double-double with 15 kills and 10 digs.

Notre Dame continues its Big East schedule with a home match against Rutgers at the JACC on Sunday at 2 p.m.