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Volleyball: Irish make best of tough home weekend

Heather VanHoegarden | Monday, November 10, 2003

Ten thousand people flocked to the Joyce Center this weekend, and it wasn’t to see the basketball team – it was to see the volleyball team.

A record crowd of 8,643 saw the No. 12 Irish defeat Virginia Tech Friday, and a crowd of 2,175 witnessed a 3-0 sweep of Miami Sunday night.

The Irish (21-2, 10-0 in the Big East) squeaked by the Hokies on Friday after falling behind 2-1. The Irish took the Hokies to five games (30-22, 25-30, 29-31, 30-24, 15-13), before pulling out the victory with a Lauren Brewster kill to end game five.

“We knew that we needed to play well [this weekend], and on Friday, we were really pleased with game four and five,” Irish coach Debbie Brown said.

The Irish were able to come away from the match with some of their most consistent hitting numbers of the season – a .291 attack percentage for the match. Setter Kristen Kinder ran the offense with her career high 68 assists, leading the team to a blazing .406 hitting percentage in the first game.

Kinder found targets in her middle blockers Brewster and Lauren Kelbley, who both had 22 kills on a combined .379 hitting percentage. Emily Loomis added 16 kills to go along with a career-high 18 digs – her 11th double-double of her career. Jessica Kinder added 10 kills and 10 digs for her own double-double.

Defensively, libero Meg Henican registered 15 digs while Danielle Herndon added 13 to go along with a career high three aces.

Although Friday’s victory came as a sigh of relief, Sunday was a new day and a new story against Miami (21-8, 8-3). The Irish swept the Hurricanes on College Sports Television, 3-0 (30-26, 30-24, 30-22).

The Irish came out strong, posting a .269 hitting percentage in the first game, and holding the Hurricanes to only .190 hitting. The game was tied at 23 when the Irish went on a 7-3 run to finish the game on Kelbley’s kill.

“I think that we’ve had the capability sometimes to pull away at the end of a match,” Brown said. “I think that we got in a better rhythm, and we just started getting better timing on the block, and we finished better offensively [at the end of the first game].”

The second game saw the Irish fall behind early, but they fought back after Loomis and Kelbley kills brought them back to 15-15. Katie Neff’s solo block put them ahead for good, 18-15. Kristen Kinder once again led the offense with 44 assists on the match.

However, the first two games saw the Irish make nine service errors, an unusual statistic for a consistent-serving team.

“It killed the coaches,” Brown said with a smile. “We wanted to serve tough, but we were trying to get aces instead of just trying to serve tough in the court.”

But in the end, the Irish were just too much for the Hurricanes. Game three saw Notre Dame pull ahead for good, as they got ahead 3-2 and never trailed.

“By the end of the match, we had a really good feel for what they were doing, and we could respond a little bit better,” Brown said.

The team victory could be attributed to the passing of the Irish defense. Libero Meg Henican led the way with 15 digs, and Emily Loomis added 10.

They were the key to the .326 hitting percentage of the Irish, who had four players with nine kills or more. Kelbley led the way with 15, followed by Loomis with 12. Jessica Kinder and Neff, both playing their last regular season games in the Joyce Center, added nine each.

“We played three really solid games today,” Brown said. “It’s exactly where we want to be.”