Oct. 2, 2004
SYRACUSE, N.Y. - The University of Notre Dame women's volleyball team (6-5, 1-0 BIG EAST) opened BIG EAST Conference play with a victory for the 10th consecutive season, sweeping Syracuse (13-5, 0-1) 30-23, 30-24, 30-17 Sunday afternoon in the Manley Field House. The Irish, using a new lineup, turned in their top defensive performance of the season, using a season-high 16 blocks to hold the Orange to just a .017 attack percentage.
In an effort to snap a two-game losing skid, Notre Dame head coach Debbie Brown inserted junior Carolyn Cooper (Houston, Texas/Lutheran South Academy) into her starting lineup at middle blocker, electing to move senior Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) to outside hitter, a spot where she played during her first two collegiate seasons. Additionally, junior captain Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.), Notre Dame's top defensive player, moved back into the libero position after playing on the outside against Michigan on Tuesday.
Cooper, who has been Notre Dame's top front-row sub for the last two seasons, provided a boost to the Irish blocking game, as she took part in seven blocks (after having just three blocks to her credit this season prior to Saturday). Cooper, who was making her second career start - and first in more than a year - also matched her season high with three kills.
The Irish block was outstanding against Syracuse, regaining the 2003 form that allowed Notre Dame to lead Division I in team blocking for the first time this season. The 16 blocks was a season high even though it came in a three-game match that did not see many points played. Junior MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.), who led the nation in individual blocking a year ago, tied Cooper for match-high honors by being in on seven blocks (two solo, five assists). Only once in 11 matches this season has Brewster not been Notre Dame's leading blocker. Freshman OPP Adrianna Stasiuk (Park Ridge, Ill./Maine South H.S.) matched her season high by notching five blocks, while Loomis had four.
Floor defense for Notre Dame was improved, as well, as the Irish ended up with 44 digs despite the low number of points (154, the second-lowest total in a match this season). Leading the way was Henican, who had a match-high 16 digs (5.33 per game) to lead the Irish for the 10th time in 11 contests in 2004. Stasiuk added 12 digs, while senior DS Kelly Corbett (Mountain View, Calif./St. Francis H.S.) had five digs - one more than she had managed in the first 10 matches of this campaign and one shy of her career-best performance.
The Syracuse attack managed more kills than errors in just one game, posting the lowest attack percentage by an Irish opponent since last year's Orange ended up hitting -.008 (32 kills, 33 errors) in the Joyce Center on Nov. 2. On Saturday, the `Cuse had 10 or more errors in every game and finished with 35 kills and 33 errors, with nearly half of them coming on Irish blocks.
The Irish receiving corps was flawless, not allowing a service ace by Syracuse all day.
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) turned in a .198 attack mark, hitting between .155 and .230 in every game. Tarutis had a team-high 25 assists.
Brewster was the top Notre Dame hitter, ending up with a match-high 11 kills on a .348 hitting percentage, while junior OH Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) had 10 kills on .250 hitting. Stasiuk added six kills, and Loomis had five in her return to the outside.
The Irish started quickly, winning five of the first six points of the match. Notre Dame eventually stretched its lead to as many as 10, going up 29-19 before Syracuse saved four straight game points. An Orange service error ended the opening frame, in which Kelbley had five kills.
Syracuse won the first point of the second game, but the Irish then went up 12-4. The Orange would rally, though, first cutting it to 12-9 and eventually pulling within one at 16-15. Notre Dame then got kills from Kelbley on two of the next three points, to instigate a run that would end the game. Brewster had five kills on seven errorless swings in the game for a .714 attack percentage, while the Irish registered eight blocks in holding Syracuse to a -.051 hitting mark (11 kills, 13 errors). Cooper took part in half of the blocks, while Loomis was in on three (including two block solos).
Game three was tight early, with the teams splitting the first 20 points. Notre Dame then built a small margin and led 19-15 when a kill by Brewster ignited a 9-0 run for the Irish, keyed by Henican's serve, that would all but clinch the game.
Notre Dame will return to action next weekend, traveling to New Jersey for a pair of matches. On Saturday, Oct. 9, the Irish will be at Rutgers at 2 p.m. (EDT) before playing at Seton Hall on Sunday at 1 p.m.