Aug. 28, 2005
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Senior middle blockers Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) and Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) led the University of Notre Dame women's volleyball team (1-0) to a 30-24, 30-16, 30-26 sweep of Michigan (0-1) Saturday evening in the Joyce Center in front of a crowd of 1,574 in both teams' season opener. The Irish, who won their season-opening match for the 15th consecutive season, will return to action next weekend for The Inn at Saint Mary's Shamrock Invitational, taking on #11 Texas at home on Saturday at 5 p.m. (EST/CDT).
Brewster had six kills in each of the final two games - making just a single error - to finish with 16 on a .412 attack percentage, both team highs. Kelbley, who returned to the middle blocker position for the first time since late in the 2003 campaign, ended with 15 kills on .361 hitting, including seven in the final frame. Those two were the favorite targets of sophomore setter Ashley Tarutis (Long Beach, Calif./Los Alamitos H.S.), who accrued 40 assists (one off her career high for a three-game affair) and orchestrated an attack that hit .271 on the match, including over .295 in both of the last two games.
The Irish were strong defensively, as well, posting 10 blocks (3.33 per game) and digging up 61 balls (20.33 per game) en route to keeping Michigan to a .153 hitting mark. Brewster - who has led the BIG EAST in blocking in each of the last three years and was the 2003 NCAA blocking champ - led the way, getting in on six of those blocks, including a pair of the solo variety. Senior Carolyn Cooper (Houston, Texas/Lutheran South Academy), who made her first career start at opposite after being mostly a middle blocker last season, was in on four, while Tarutis took part in three. Notre Dame improved to 18-2 with Cooper in the starting lineup.
Senior co-captain Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.) played outside hitter for the first time since Notre Dame's match at Michigan last season (Sept. 28) after being the libero for the majority of the 2004 campaign en route to breaking the Irish records for digs in a season and season dig average. She led all players in digs on Saturday with 22, marking the eighth time in the last 10 matches (dating back to last season) - and 18th time in her career - that she registered 20+ digs. Junior Danielle Herndon (Plant City, Fla./Durant H.S.) - who donned the libero jersey for the first time since last year's match in Ann Arbor - notched 13 digs, while Tarutis added a dozen. It was the sophomore's 13th career double-double. Another second-year player, OH Ellen Heintzman (Louisville, Ky./Sacred Heart Academy), turned in a career high in digs, with nine.
Thanks in large part to the efforts of Henican and Herndon, Notre Dame surrendered just one service ace. That continued a trend, as the last two seasons have seen the Irish post their two lowest opposing ace averages in program history.
Notre Dame also served exceptionally well, finishing with nine aces, while making just seven service errors. Leading the way were Kelbley and Heintzman, who had three apiece, while Brewster added a pair. Kelbley made just one serving error, while Heintzman was perfect on the way to also setting a career-best mark in that category. All of her aces came on consecutive swings in the middle of the first game.
The Irish have won every season-opening match since current head coach Debbie Brown arrived on campus, last starting 0-1 in 1990.
The crowd was the largest ever for a Notre Dame volleyball season opener, as well as the eighth-largest home attendance in program history. Only three other matches that did not come before football pep rallies have attracted larger crowds than Saturday night's contest.
Notre Dame improved to 8-4 all-time - and 5-1 at home - against the Wolverines, but had previously dropped three of the last four matches with U-M, including a four-game affair on the road in 2004.
The Irish were without the services of sophomore OPP/OH Adrianna Stasiuk (Park Ridge, Ill./Maine South H.S.), who started every match at opposite in 2004. She missed the opener due to an offseason rib injury.
Notre Dame received solid debut performances from a pair of freshmen. Local product Madison Clark (Sturgis, Mich./Sturgis H.S.), who hails from fewer than 50 miles away, saw regular time as a defensive specialist and recording her first collegiate dig. OH Mallorie Croal (Villa Park, Calif./Mater Dei H.S.) played for much of the final game, notching a kill, an assist, and a dig.
The Wolverines were led by sophomore OH Katie Bruzdzinski, who had a match-high 19 kills, while sophomore libero Stesha Selsky scrambled for 21 digs.
Michigan sophomore MB Lyndsay Miller registered a kill (her first of 12) on the opening point of the match, and that would prove to be the only lead for the Wolverines in the opening game. The Irish quickly took control, going up by as many as 10 (25-15 and 26-16) and finally converting their third game point to take a 1-0 lead. Notre Dame had five service aces - including three from Heintzman - and made just one serving error.
The Wolverines edged ahead early in the second game, going up 5-4 before Notre Dame won six straight points to seize the momentum. The Irish were strong from then on, ending the game on a 19-7 run after having their advantage cut to 11-9. Tarutis' offense hit .304 in the game (with 18 kills), while Henican accounted for 13 of Notre Dame's 31 digs, which were a large factor in Michigan ending with just nine kills and seven errors for a .043 hitting mark.
The final game featured eight tie scores early, but Notre Dame then pulled ahead by four at 16-12 and maintained that advantage for much of the rest of the game, trading points for a three-game sweep. The Irish had 19 kills - seven from Kelbley and six by Brewster - on .298 hitting in the final frame.
The Shamrock Invitational, now in its 10th season and sponsored for the first time by The Inn at Saint Mary's, will get underway on Friday, as Arizona State and 11th-ranked Texas square off at 7 p.m. (EST/CDT) in the Joyce Center. On Saturday at 5 p.m., it will be the Longhorns and Irish in a match to be shown on College Sports Television (CSTV), while ND and Arizona State will play on Sunday at 2 p.m. Live statistics via College Sports Online's GameTracker will be available for all three matches, while the two featuring Notre Dame also will have live audio, all through the official site of Irish athletics, und.com.