Oct. 6, 2005
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The 10th-ranked University of Notre Dame women's volleyball team (12-1) registered its eighth sweep in 13 matches this season, defeating Valparaiso (14-4) 34-32, 30-21, 30-26 Wednesday evening the Joyce Center. The Irish have now won five in a row and have matched the best 13-match start in program history.
Notre Dame's defense paved the way for the victory, using 16 blocks (5.33 per game) and 73 digs (24.33) to hold Valparaiso to a .130 attack percentage. In fact, none of the Crusaders' hitters hit over .185. Leading the way, as usual, was senior co-captain L Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.), who registered 19 digs. She also took nearly 60% of the Valpo serves (43 of 73) without making an error, keying an effort that held the Crusaders without a single service ace (the second time in three matches an ND opponent has failed to serve up an ace). Henican has now taken 148 consecutive serves without making an error, a streak going back to Sept. 25 against Seton Hall. As a team, the Irish - which also got 24 perfect receptions from sophomore OH Adrianna Stasiuk (Park Ridge, Ill./Maine South H.S.) - have surrendered just two total aces (in 220 chances) over the past three matches (0.22 per game). For the season, the Irish are giving up just 0.81 aces per game, which would easily break the school record of 0.94, set by the 2003 team that also had Henican as a primary receiver.
At the net, Notre Dame got some solid play from its three senior hitters: MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.), MB Carolyn Cooper (Houston, Texas/Lutheran South Academy), and OH Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.). Brewster, an All-American and the 2003 NCAA blocking champ, led all players with seven blocks, including three of the solo variety. Cooper also had three block solos, and she took part in six total blocks, while Kelbley was in on five. Sophomore setter Ashley Tarutis (Long Beach, Calif./Los Alamitos H.S.) was in on three blocks - matching her career high - while sophomore OH Mallorie Croal (Villa Park, Calif./Mater Dei H.S.) had a pair of solo blocks.
Tarutis also was a big factor in the floor game, registering 16 digs - her second-highest total of the year - to go with her 40 assists. It was her 21st career double-double and ninth of this season. Tarutis also had three kills on seven attempts (.429). Stasiuk earned her second double-double in a row (her first two of 2005) by scrambling for a dozen digs to go with her 13 kills. Junior DS Danielle Herndon (Plant City, Fla./Durant H.S.) had 10 digs.
Stasiuk shared match-high honors in kills, along with Kelbley. The sophomore had probably the two biggest kills of the match, which came at 32-32 in the opening game to put ND up 1-0. Brewster also contributed 11 kills, while Croal had seven.
Tarutis' offense struggled for most of the match, finishing with 50 kills on .184 hitting. Notre Dame was unable to hit over .225 in any game, but used outstanding defense to carry it to victory.
Since its only defeat of the season - a five-game affair against Louisiana State on Sept. 18 - Notre Dame has won five in a row, taking 15 of 16 games (the only loss coming 30-28 against Marquette).
Valparaiso became the first school ever to lose 20 times to Notre Dame in women's volleyball. The Crusaders have three all-time victories over the Irish, including a five-game decision in the Joyce Center last season.
The Crusaders were led by sophomore OH Amy Palash, who finished with 11 kills and a match-high 20 digs. Senior MB Liz Mikos had 10 kills, while senior RS Lauren Moulton took part in five blocks.
Valpo came out hot in game one, jumping out to a 12-4 advantage early. Notre Dame finally tied the score at 24-24, but could not take the lead. The Crusaders edged back ahead and earned a pair of game points at 29-27. The first was erased by a service error, and Brewster and Tarutis combined for a block of Jessi Novak to tie the score at 29-29. A Mikos kill set up game point #3 for Valpo, but Brewster responded with a kill of her own. It was then Palash's turn for a kill, which set up the fourth game point for the Crusaders. A kill from Tarutis erased that to make it 31-31. An error by Palash gave the Irish their first lead of the game, but a block by Jessie Fox pushed the score to 32-32. Stasiuk then took over with consecutive kills, drilling one crosscourt from the left side on game point to complete ND's comeback. The Irish had 20 kills in the first game, including five from Stasiuk.
Notre Dame led nearly the entire way in game two, taking the lead for good at 3-2 and going up by as many as 10 (24-14) en route to a nine-point victory. Stasiuk had seven more kills in the game, while Valpo hit just .064 (12 kills, 9 errors).
The Crusaders came out quickly in game three, taking an 8-1 lead. But Notre Dame would rally and go ahead 13-12 and maintain that advantage the rest of the way, despite a pair of ties (the latest coming at 19-19). Valpo stayed close, but at 27-26, ND got a kill from Stasiuk, a block by Brewster and Cooper on Mikos, and then a solo block by Brewster against Moulton to win the game.
The Irish - one of just two teams still unbeaten in conference play - will hit the road this weekend for a pair of BIG EAST Conference matches. Notre Dame will take on St. John's on Saturday at 2 p.m. (EDT) and Connecticut on Sunday at the same time.
Valparaiso (14-4) 32-21-26 #10 Notre Dame (12-1) 34-30-30