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Striking first

Mike Gilloon | Thursday, September 2, 2004

It’s a start. That’s one way Irish coach Debbie Brown might describe Wednesday night’s opening victory over Loyola Chicago.

“We were a little inconsistent tonight but I also saw a lot of good things,” Brown said after watching her team win the first two games, then lose the third before finally finishing off the Ramblers in a four-game victory at the Joyce Center.

Notre Dame appeared ready to steamroll its way to an easy match win as aces from Adrianna Stasiuk and Meg Henican helped them to take game one, 30-24.

Outside hitter Emily Loomis had two key spikes to put the Irish ahead 14-8 midway through game two as her teammate Lauren Brewster aided the Irish attack with an impressive kill. She extended her whole body backwards to make solid contact with the ball and send it flying over the net giving Notre Dame a 22-11 lead. The Irish cruised from there to win game two 30-19.

“I thought in game two we came out really, really strong,” Brown said. “Emily Loomis was hitting the ball really well, and I thought she showed good promise.”

Game three was a totally different story for the Irish as Loyola played with much more intensity than they had in the first two games. Though smaller and less athletic than Notre Dame, the Ramblers used hustle and strong serving from outside hitter Courtney Ashley to take an early 20-10 lead. Brown took a couple of timeouts to try and rally the Irish, but they didn’t work.

“We were just out of rhythm,” she said.

Loyola continued its strong play and exploited Notre Dame’s lack of cohesiveness to post a 30-17 game three victory.

Game four was by far the most hotly contested of the night as the Irish won a squeaker, 30-28. Kills by Loomis and Henican helped the Irish stay just ahead of the Ramblers as Notre Dame clung on to leads of 7-6 and 11-9 early on in the game.

An ace by Lauren Kelbley gave the Irish a solid 24-19 lead late. However, Loyola forced Notre Dame to work for the win as the Ramblers made it close. Fortunately for the Irish, Emily Loomis scored the final point to give Notre Dame the third game and the match.

Afterwards Brown said that she wasn’t surprised by the good showing from Loyola.

“I anticipated that [Loyola] would play well,” she said. “They are a good team.”

The middle combination of Loomis and Brewster gave the Ramblers fits all night long and Brown was impressed with their play.

“It’s hard when you’re a hitter on the other team to go up against them,” she said.

Another aspect of the game Brown was happy with was the fan support, especially that shown by the vocal Irish men’s swim team. The swimmers cheered wildly for the Irish all night long and celebrated the win by singing the Victory March in their Speedos.

“It was a good atmosphere here tonight,” said Brown. “The swimmers especially had a lot of enthusiasm.”