Sept. 17, 2004
COLUMBIA, S.C. - Junior MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) led all players in five statistical categories, as the University of Notre Dame women's volleyball team (5-3) opened the Gamecock Invitational with a 30-22, 24-30, 30-21, 30-19 victory over Michigan State (5-2) Friday afternoon in the Volleyball Competition Facility. Freshman OH Ellen Heintzman (Louisville, Ky./Sacred Heart Academy) was also impressive in a solid offensive performance that has put the Irish within a victory of claiming their second tournament title in as many weekends.
Brewster, who last week was named the Cal Poly Invitational MVP and the BIG EAST Player of the Week, had one of the best all-around performances of her career, leading all players in the match in kills (17), hitting percentage (.500), service aces (4), blocks (4), and points (23). She made just two attack errors and no service errors in setting a career high for service aces. Brewster also was third on the Irish with nine digs.
Heintzman turned in the best match of her collegiate career, finishing with 15 kills on .444 hitting in just her second weekend starting at outside hitter. She made just three errors attack errors and added three digs.
Notre Dame's offense, led by freshman S Ashley Tarutis (Long Beach, Calif./Los Alamitos H.S.) and junior S Kelly Burrell (Phoenix, Ariz./Xavier College Prep School), was solid, ending up with a .289 attack percentage that stands as the highest for the Irish in a match longer than three games since Nov. 30, 2003 (.291 in 3-2 win against Virginia Tech) and the second-highest in any match this season. The Irish had 15 or more kills in each of the games they won and also hit over .265 in all of those games. Tarutis finished with 44 assists, her collegiate high in a non-five-game match, while Burrell added seven.
Freshman OPP Adrianna Stasiuk (Park Ridge, Ill./Maine South H.S.) finished with 12 kills and three service aces, while senior MB Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) added eight kills.
Junior captain L Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.) led all players with 15 digs, while sophomore DS Danielle Herndon (Plant City, Fla./Durant H.S.) notched a season-high 12.
Notre Dame's serving game was outstanding, as the Irish recorded 11 aces and made only seven errors. In addition to Brewster and Stasiuk, Henican had a pair of aces and Heintzman and Tarutis added one apiece.
The first game featured tight play, including 11 ties and seven lead changes before the Irish finally took control. With the score tied at 21-21, a Loomis kill gave the serve to Stasiuk, who responded with a pair of aces in helping Notre Dame to seven straight points. An ace by Henican gave the Irish the first game, in which they hit .393, with five kills from Heintzman and four each from Loomis and Brewster.
An early 8-1 run gave MSU an advantage it would never relinquish in game two, as the Spartans opened up a 14-8 lead. Michigan State sprinted to a 25-12 advantage before Notre Dame won eight of the next 11 points, but MSU got a kill from Megan Wallin to get within a point of victory at 29-20. The Irish won four more points before a Kim Schram kill evened the match. Brewster and Stasiuk both hit .500 in the game, with five and four kills, respectively, but the rest of the Irish had only three kills combined.
After the break, Notre Dame came out strong in the third game, building an 11-6 lead before MSU rallied to pull within one (13-12). The Irish then won six points in a row to take control and eventually ended the game on Heintzman's fifth kill of the frame (.400 attack percentage). Brewster had five kills and no errors on nine swings for a .556 hitting mark.
The Irish got out quickly again in game four, building a 13-6 advantage early and eventually getting a block from Heintzman and Brewster to secure Notre Dame's first win over Michigan State since 1994, snapping a five-match losing streak against the Spartans.
It was a matchup of teams that have met in the NCAA tournament twice in the last three years, with MSU winning in 2001 in Madison, Wis., and in the Joyce Center in '02. Irish head coach Debbie Brown played collegiately for current Spartan mentor Chuck Erbe at Southern California, capturing a pair of national championships and twice winning the Mikasa Award as the nation's top all-around player.
Notre Dame will have Saturday off, as its originally-scheduled match against Southern California was cancelled when the Women of Troy announced they would not be participating in the Gamecock Invitational due to weather and travel concerns. The Irish will be back on the court Sunday against the tournament host, South Carolina (5-2), for a 2 p.m. (EDT) match. The contest will be televised by College Sports Television (CSTV) as part of its "Sunday Night Spikes" national match-of-the-week series, airing on a tape-delayed basis at 6 p.m. (EDT), 5 p.m. in South Bend.