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ND Volleyball: Irish sweep BGSU in season opener

Kyle Cassily | Monday, August 28, 2006

No. 21 Notre Dame accomplished the familiar with unfamiliar faces Saturday at the Joyce Center with a 3-0 win over Bowling Green in the team’s season opener.

The match was the 16th consecutive season-opening victory for the Irish, who entered the season with seven new recruits. The Falcons were dispatched in three straight games by scores of 30-24, 30-28 and 30-26.

In her first collegiate match, freshman Christina Kaelin led the Irish with 22 kills while senior libero – and captain – Danielle Herndon turned out 12 digs to anchor the defense.

“I was pretty nervous before the game started, but then once the first ball was served, the jitters were gone,” Kaelin said.

The Falcons threatened in the second game after the first went almost entirely in Notre Dame’s favor. With the score 25-23 in Bowling Green’s favor, the Irish sparked a 7-3 run after a Kaelin kill to take the 2-0 lead in the match.

The late rally was capped by an enormous kill on the outside by sophomore Mallorie Croal. Croal received the set on the left side and blasted a strike past a diving Falcon defender against the left sideline for the game-point.

“In both the second and third games we had a couple rotations where our passing broke down a little bit,” Irish head coach Debbie Brown said. “We just managed to maintain composure and not get frazzled with anything, then slowly chip away and come back.”

Notre Dame also pushed its way back from a small deficit midway through the third game behind a series of Kaelin kills, a number of blocks from freshman Tara Enzweiler and a service ace from junior Ashley Tarutis.

Kaelin was able to secure the match-point with the score 29-26 on an outside blast that deflected off a Falcon hitter and out of bounds in the direction of the media tables.

“We’re not used to playing with each other right now – for sure not as smooth as it needs to be,” Brown said. “But I think it was a good start for us, and it certainly helps us to know what we need to work on this week before we play a level of competition that’s a little bit higher.”

The Irish dominated the first game – at one point leading the Falcons by a score of 26-14 – before taking it 30-24. Enzweiler put an end to the short-lived Falcon comeback with a solid kill through the middle of the Bowling Green defense.

Freshman Megan Fesl produced five kills in the opening frame, while Kaelin secured six of her own.

“I think the first game I felt more comfortable than games two and three,” Brown said. “I felt that we had pretty good control in game one. In games two and three we kind of sputtered and struggled through, but found a way to get it done in the end.”

Tarutis produced a team-high 27 assists, while freshman setter Jamel Nicholas tallied 15 in front of a lively crowd of 1,534 in the South Dome.

“If we had had poor practices … I would have been nervous, and they probably would have known that,” Brown said. “But we’ve been practicing really well.”

The Irish will be in action again at home next weekend as they host the Shamrock Invitational in the Joyce Center. The team will square off against unranked Valparaiso and Idaho before taking on No. 6 Santa Clara and No. 13 Missouri in the three-day tournament.