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ND Volleyball: Irish fall to Volunteers Saturday

Tom Dorwart | Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Notre Dame volleyball team had a sour finish to a sweet regular season when it lost its final match of the regular season Saturday 30-26, 30-26, 28-30, 30-32, 9-15 to Tennessee (21-8), but still received the No. 6 national seed for the NCAA tournament.

The brackets were announced Sunday on ESPNews. Even though the Irish were down after Saturday’s loss, they were back in good spirits when they realized they received the highest seed in the program’s history.

“I think it really lifted our spirits,” coach Debbie Brown said. “We were all pretty down about [the Tennessee loss], and to kind of be able to look ahead [was good]. Obviously we’ll have to look back at [the loss] and learn from it and not pretend that it didn’t happen because it did … we just had two or three players that didn’t have a good match for us.

“And this time of year we need to have everybody. That’s why we’ve won the tough matches in the past, like the Big East championship because it was a just a great, solid team effort. Everybody contributed really well. We weren’t there as a team against Tennessee.”

Notre Dame (28-3), in the midst of its best season in school-history, will host the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, starting Thursday at the Joyce Center (JAAC). The Irish will face Dayton (24-10), while Northwestern (19-11) will take on Texas A&M (16-13).

The winners will play Friday evening for the right to advance to the final 16.

The loss to Tennessee was only the third for the Irish this season. It came in the second match of their own Thanksgiving Invitational, which was held at the JAAC Friday and Saturday.

Senior Lauren Kelbley and sophomore Ellen Heintzman had 22 kills each, while sophomore Adrianna Stasiuk and senior Lauren Brewster added 14 and 12 apiece. Senior Meg Henican finished with 32 digs – the 30th match this season in which she has finished with 10 or more. She broke the career dig record last week during the Big East tournament.

As a team, the Irish had 85 digs, their second-highest total of the season.

Friday, Notre Dame beat Rice (17-11) 30-20, 30-20, 30-13.

“They were a little beaten up,” Brown said. “Their best player even got hurt during that match, so I think that kind of took the wind out of their sails. I think we kept our composure and executed well against them.”

Despite the Friday sweep against Rice, and despite taking the first two games against Tennessee, the Irish couldn’t finish Saturday even though they had several match points.

“The Tennessee match was a tough one for us,” Brown said. “Even though we won the first two games, it didn’t feel like we played really, really well.

“We were kind of even with them, and then kind of pulled away at the end in both games one and two. Obviously, in games three and four, we had opportunities to finish it at the end and didn’t do that. We’ve played a couple of five-game matches already this year, and our success in the past has been pretty good, but we struggled. We were a little out of sync.”

Though the regular season finished Saturday, the Irish didn’t quite get the day off Sunday. They watched the Selection Show as a team.

“We did [watch it as a team]. That was good,” Brown said. “For sure, after the Selection Show, our spirits were lifted, and emotionally I think the team was in a very good place.”