ND Volleyball: Irish split conference games with WVU, Pitt
Sam Werner | Monday, October 13, 2008
Notre Dame took strides towards beating breast cancer Saturday, but couldn’t take care of Pittsburgh, falling to the Panthers 3-1 (25-22, 20-25, 25-23, 25-20).
Donning uniforms with pink lettering and playing with a special pink and white ball, Notre Dame (9-9, 4-2 Big East) raised over $6,000 for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure in the second annual Dig for the Cure event.
Junior outside hitter Christina Kaelin tallied 21 kills for the Irish, who appeared to have control in the first set, before Pittsburgh tied the set at 9. The teams went back and forth until the Panthers called a timeout at 19-19. After that, Pittsburgh ripped off a 6-3 run to close out the set.
Notre Dame appeared to rally back in the second set, and, with the score tied at 17, scored eight of the next 11 points and tied the match at one set apiece.
Poor starts doomed the Irish in the third and fourth sets, though, falling behind 6-1 in both.
“When you’re playing against a team and it’s going back and forth, you can’t give up five points in a row and expect that you’re still going to be in there,” Notre Dame coach Debbie Brown said. “We didn’t really come out flat, we just started slow.”
Notre Dame rallied in the third set, tying the game at 19 before falling 25-23. The Irish also came back in the fourth set, cutting the Pittsburgh lead to two before the Panthers put the match away.
“Obviously we didn’t give up, and that’s good,” Brown said. “But that’s a hole that’s a little too big to get out of sometimes.”
Despite Kaelin’s kills, the Panthers did a good job of shutting down the Irish attack, notching ten team blocks in the match.
“Going into the match, we knew that they were a very strong blocking team,” Brown said. “We started off not very smart with our shots, and then I think we got a lot better after that.”
Brown said that after the first set, her team did a better job of taking good angles and hitting around the block.
Junior setter Jamel Nicholas had a career-high 54 assists, and Brown praised Nicholas’ leadership on the court.
“She does a good job of directing the offense,” Brown said. “And she does a good job of Kaelin and trying to find the hot hitters.”
The loss drops the Irish to 4-2 in the Big East. They had improved to 4-1 after a Saturday night rout of West Virginia (6-11, 0-5 Big East). Notre Dame beat the Mountaineers 3-0 (25-13, 25-13, 25-17) to earn the 600th win in program history.
Freshman Kristen Dealy had 13 kills, and Kaelin added 11 more as the Irish made sure the match was never in doubt.
Notre Dame is now tied with Georgetown, Cincinnati and Louisville for third in the conference. Brown said that, despite the loss to the Panthers, the Irish were optimistic about their conference title aspirations.
“It’s no different then where we were before,” she said. “We feel like we need to win every game.”