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ND Volleyball: Irish fall to Cardinals at tourney

Meaghan Veselik | Monday, November 23, 2009

Top-seeded Notre Dame fell for the fifth time in as many years this weekend to fourth-seeded Louisville in the semifinals of the Big East Tournament after sweeping Seton Hall Friday. The Irish’s loss snapped their 15-game winning streak and ended their undefeated conference season.

In the quarterfinals, Notre Dame defeated Seton Hall 3-0 (25-15, 25-15, 25-19) for their 11th sweep of the season. Senior outside hitters Christina Kaelin and Serinity Phillips each recorded 12 kills in the win, while seven other Irish players recorded kills as well.

Kaelin recorded three digs and two blocks, while Phillips put in five digs and five blocks. Junior Kelly Sciacca and sophomore Kristen Dealy each recorded seven kills. Sciacca also had three solo blocks. Dealy played the first match of her career without an error as she added in a team-high 11 digs and two aces. Senior setter Jamel Nicholas had a match-high 40 assists.

The Irish hit at a .333 average, holding the Pirates to an average of .094 and ending their first championship appearance since 1994.

Saturday saw the Irish fall 3-2 (24-26, 25-16, 18-25, 25-16, 15-13) in the semifinals, the first match of the tournament that went into five sets.

Dealy led the team with 23 kills, and Louisville native Kaelin added 17. Sophomore libero Frenchy Silva had 17 kills as well. Phillips put in 10 kills and six digs, while Sciacca had nine kills and Nicholas had 54 kills and 14 digs.

Big East Freshman of the Year Lola Arslanbekova posted 21 kill and 16 digs for Louisville.
Louisville led early in the first set, but an ace from junior outside hitter Stephanie Slatt, an Irish scoring rally, and an error from the Cardinals at set point gave Notre Dame the first set.

The Cardinals dominated the second set from start to finish, building off a 5-1 one and never looking back. They took advantage at 17-8, and continued their hitting success to take the second set 25-16. The Irish hit at an only .031 percentage in the set.

The third set saw the Irish take back the court, started off by a pair of digs from Silva at 6-5 to give them another point. The Irish hit .342 in the third.

Arslanbekova gave Louisville the lead at 10-5 in the fourth set with three quick kills, later adding four more. Sciacca had a kill at 15-13 and was as close as Notre Dame got to a win. Louisville closed the frame with a 10-3 scoring run.

In the final set, the two teams traded points seven times, but the Irish weren’t able to come out on top as Louisville took the win.

Notre Dame will next face Florida Saturday, Nov. 28, in Florida before the NCAA championships.

– Irish coach Debbie Brown was named Big East Coach of the Year at the Big East awards banquet held Friday.