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Irish to take on Valpo in NCAA’s

Mike Gilloon | Friday, December 3, 2004

Notre Dame has won 15 of its last 18 matches. But this weekend they have a chance to win respect.

The Irish will compete in the first round of the NCAA volleyball tournament tonight at 5 p.m. in a match against Valparaiso in Madison, Wisc. Despite capturing both the Big East regular season and tournament titles, the Irish are not ranked in the USA Today/CSTV Top 25. A win over the Crusaders combined with a victory Saturday against the winner of the Loyola Chicago-Wisconsin match should propel the Irish into the national spotlight.

However, with a school record mark of 29-4, Valparaiso is a difficult first- round opponent for the Irish. The Crusaders, champions of the Mid-Continent conference, snapped an 18-match losing streak against Notre Dame on Sept. 7 with a five-game triumph in the Joyce Center. The Irish won the first and fourth games but fell 15-12 in the decisive fifth game.

Valparaiso is making its second straight NCAA tournament appearance and is led by MCC player of the year Lauren Moulton, who averaged 3.36 kills per game with a hitting percentage of .293. Setter Katie Bova averages nearly 13 assists per game and was named first-team all-conference along with Moulton.

Notre Dame is on a roll after winning the Big East tournament title two weeks ago with victories over Boston College and Pittsburgh in the semi-finals and finals, respectively. Just last week, the Irish won the Baden Thanksgiving tournament in Long Beach, Calif. over NCAA qualifiers Long Beach St. and UC Irvine. Notre Dame swept UC Irvine and then needed five games to beat Long Beach State. Outside hitter Emily Loomis came up big for the Irish as she turned in a career-high 29 kills and hit .414. Long Beach State was up 14-12 in the fifth game and needed only one more point to win the match before Notre Dame rallied for four straight points and the first victory over the 49ers in program history.

One positive for the Irish this weekend will be the presence of Lauren Kelbley. The junior has been bothered lately with a foot injury but is expected to play against Valparaiso tonight.

This will be the 13th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance for Notre Dame, one of only eight programs in the country to have appeared so often. It is the second longest streak of its kind among all Irish varsity sports as only fencing has more