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ND Volleyball: ND splits 2 weekend matchups

Sam Werner | Monday, October 6, 2008

Louisville native Christina Kaelin made the most of her homecoming Saturday, as the Irish went on the road and took down the Cardinals 3-0 (25-22, 25-23, 25-23).

It marked the first Irish sweep in Louisville since 1986, and Notre Dame (8-8, 3-1 Big East) coach Debbie Brown couldn’t have been happier with the big result against the conference foe.

“I was really pleased,” she said. “Obviously it was a really big, important game for us.”

Kaelin led the Irish with 14 kills in front of her hometown fans, posting a .344 hitting percentage. Brown said Kaelin, a junior outside hitter, was especially excited to play against the Cardinals.

“I think it’s always pretty exciting to get to go back to your hometown and play,” Brown said. “She just competed really hard and rose to the occasion.”

Notre Dame fell behind early in the first set, allowing Louisville to take a 5-3 lead. The Irish chipped away, though, and tied the set 11-11. The teams battled back and forth until a Kaelin spike and a Jamel Nicolas ace swung the set in favor of the Irish.

The next two sets were just as tight, with neither team securing more than a four-point lead. Notre Dame got the points when it counted, though, and secured a win to, momentarily, remain undefeated in the Big East.

“I’m really pleased how our team pulled together and made it happen,” Brown said.

Junior outside hitter Serenity Phillips saw her first action in two weeks after being out because of an injury. Brown said Phillips wasn’t quite ready to play full speed, but the contributions she did make were critical to the Irish win.

“What she could provide for us with her hitting and blocking was really, really important,” Brown said.

It was a different story on Sunday, though, when Notre Dame was on the road again to take on Cincinnati. The Irish couldn’t overcome 17 service errors, and fell to the Bearcats 3-1 (25-18, 25-22, 17-25, 25-22).

“You’re going to have a tough time scoring points if you’re not serving it in,” Brown said.

The total marks the highest number of service errors in a match since Sept. 1, 2007, when the Irish tallied 21 against Florida International.

Notre Dame kept it close against the Bearcats, but was unable to get over the hump. In the first set, the Irish cut the Cincinnati lead to 19-17 before the Bearcats rallied to take the set. In the second set, the Irish cut a 21-14 Bearcat lead to 22-20, but couldn’t notch any more points. Despite taking the third set, the Irish couldn’t keep the momentum going, and the Bearcats closed out the match in the fourth.

The play of Kaelin was the lone bright spot for the Irish, as she tallied a match-high 17 kills.

After the match, Brown pointed to the service errors as the main reason for her team’s loss, but didn’t expect the trend to continue.

“We just got in a little bit of a funk and we couldn’t get out of it,” she said. “But I think we are a very good serving team and we’ll be back on track

“We just seemed to lose a little bit of our confidence.”

At the end of the weekend, the Irish were tied with St. John’s, Georgetown, and Pittsburgh at 3-1 atop the Big East standings.

“I think it’s going to be a very tight race,” Brown said. “It’s going to be a battle all the way to the end.”