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ND Volleyball: Irish complete undefeated Big East season

Meaghan Veselik | Monday, November 16, 2009

Notre Dame continued its Big East dominance and wrapped up a perfect conference schedule this weekend. The No. 24 Irish swept Georgetown Friday night to clinch the Big East regular season title and took down the University of South Florida Sunday as they honored their six seniors.

“It’s just been phenomenal,” Irish coach Debbie Brown said. “I think the team has been really focused throughout the season.”

Friday marked Notre Dame’s (20-4) 11th regular-season title since joining the Big East conference and its first since sharing the title in 2005. The Irish swept the Hoyas 3-0  (25-22, 25-20, 25-19), improving them to 13-0 Big East. Notre Dame came back from behind in each of the sets for the win. Five Irish players delivered aces throughout the match as well.

“I think today we completed one of the goals we set out for from the beginning,” senior outside hitter Christina Kaelin said. “I don’t think we’ve played at our best level so far, and that’s something that we’re looking to do. I think with practice and preparation that’s something we’re working on.”

Junior middle blocker Kellie Sciacca led the Irish offense Friday with 12 kills. Sophomore outside hitter Kristen Dealy had nine kills and 11 digs, followed by Kaelin and senior Serinity Phillips, who each had eight. Sciaccia, Dealy and Kaelin each had a solo block as well.

Senior setter Jamel Nicholas had a pair of kills, 33 assists and 10 digs. Sophomore libero Frenchy Silva put in 10 digs of her own.

Kortney Robinson led the Hoyas with 12 kills, and Lindsay Wise with 5 blocks.

Georgetown started off the first set in the lead, but Notre Dame fought its way back with kills from Sciacca and Kaelin, and aces from junior libero Megan Dunne and Phillips. The Irish had a strong 10-5 lead in the second set but the Hoyas mounted a comeback to tie it at 15. A big kill from Phillips and an ace from Nicholas put them back on top to win the second set.

The final set saw multiple kills from Kaelin, Phillips, Sciacca and Dealy as Georgetown started strong but Notre Dame stepped up to tie it at 10-10. The Irish dropped the next point before recording a string of points to win the match.

Notre Dame’s senior night was another successful event as it won its 14th consecutive match. The Irish took down the Bulls 3-1(25-18, 23-25, 25-21, 25-19). Seniors Kaelin, Phillips, Kim Kristoff, Megan Fesl, Nicholas and Tara Enzweiler were honored prior to the match and were the Notre Dame’s starting lineup.

“It was so fun having them on the court at the same time and to see them play together,” Brown said. “They have a really strong bond and have done a good job educating the classes under them.”

Phillips led all players with 19 kills, as well as putting in five digs and a team-high six blocks. Kaelin put out 13 kills and a career-high two service aces with four digs. Nicholas once again led Notre Dame in assists with 48 and had a team-high 14 digs, a kill, and two service aces. Fesl had three kills, 10 digs and four blocks while Enzweiler had five kills and five blocks. Kristoff added in two digs and two blocks of her own.

“Our senior class is one of the most special classes coming in, and to go through this with them has been amazing,” Nicholas said.

Dealy had eight kills, three digs and a block while Sciacca had six kills, two digs, and a block. Silva had 13 digs in the match.

Overall, the Irish hit .293 for the match to the Bulls’ .164. Marcela Gurgel led the Bulls with 15 kills, and Alli Arbogast had 10 kills and four blocks.

Notre Dame received its Big East regular-season championship trophies Sunday after the match.

“To win the regular season Big East is awesome,” Nicholas said. “It’s been a goal since we came into the season, and we’re glad to go 14-0. It’s a high note, it’s awesome to go out with a bang. It was a good way to go out in the JACC.”

The Irish go into the Big East tournament as the No. 1 seed, and will start competition Friday at 3:30 p.m. against No. 8-seed Seton Hall.

“We wanted to go undefeated and win the regular season, and now that we’re past that, to win the conference tournament,” Brown said. “I think we’re in a good place and we can’t be satisfied, still have to work really hard.”