Oct. 20, 2004
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah - The University of Notre Dame women's volleyball team (10-5) held leads of eight or more in every game en route to a convincing road sweep (30-26, 30-24, 30-25) of #14 Utah (15-3) Tuesday night at Crimson Court. The Irish, who got 18 kills on .567 hitting from junior middle blocker Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.), snapped the Utes' school-record 12-match winning streak and handed them their first home loss in more than a year.
Brewster led all players in kills and made just one attack error on 30 attempts. She also ended with a match-high 20 points, marking the seventh time this season she has hit the 20-point plateau. It was the 13th consecutive match in which Brewster has had 11 or more kills, which is tied for the fourth-longest streak of matches with double-digit kills in school history.
The Utes had not lost since Sept. 7 and were riding a winning streak that had featured victories against both #6 UCLA and #7 Colorado State. The Irish win snapped Utah's 13-match home winning streak and marked its first home defeat since a 3-1 decision against Colorado State on Sept. 27, 2003.
Notre Dame's other junior middle blocker, Carolyn Cooper (Houston, Texas/Lutheran South Academy), turned in one of the best matches of her career. She notched a career-high seven kills and made just one error for a .353 hitting percentage. Cooper, who matched her career high with 17 attempts, also had 12 points, which was three more than her previous career best.
Cooper was the match's most effective blocker, taking part in a match-high six, including notching a career-best total of four solo blocks that was just one shy of the school record for a three-game match. She helped the Irish win the battle of two of the best 20 blocking teams in Division I. Notre Dame, which was 19th in Division I heading into last week (the most current NCAA stats), finished with 10 blocks, while the Utes - who had been ninth with an average of 3.28 blocks - had eight (2.67 per game). Senior OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) was another major contributor for the Irish, notching three solo blocks.
Notre Dame's blocking was a key factor in holding Utah to a .169 hitting percentage for the match. In fact, none of the Utes' hitters hit better than .273 for the contest. The Irish also had 49 digs, with junior captain L Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.) leading the way with 10 and junior OH Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) matched her career high with nine. A pair of Irish rookies, S Ashley Tarutis (Long Beach, Calif./Los Alamitos H.S.) and OPP Adrianna Stasiuk (Park Ridge, Ill./Maine South H.S.) added eight apiece.
The victory marked the 450th in the career of Irish head coach Debbie Brown - now in her 20th season as a collegiate head coach (14th at Notre Dame after six at her alma mater, Arizona State) - who holds a record of 450-197 (.696). Brown joined an elite club of just 31 active Division I coaches who have registered 450+ victories. Only three coaches in that group (Alabama's Judy Green-19th, Arkansas' Chris Poole-19th, Florida's Mary Wise-18th) have coached for fewer seasons than Brown.
The win marked the third consecutive season that Notre Dame has upset a top-15 squad. Last season, the Irish notched a four-game win in a neutral-site match against #10 Arizona - which also was Notre Dame's last win over a ranked foe - and the '02 team beat #10 Pepperdine 3-2 in the final of the Golden Dome Invitational.
The Irish offense was balanced with the exception of Brewster's explosion. Loomis and Stasiuk both had eight kills, while Kelbley and Cooper added seven each. Tarutis finished with a match-high 31 assists in helping Notre Dame to a .231 hitting mark, while junior S Kelly Burrell (Phoenix, Ariz./Xavier Preparatory School) also accounted for eight assists.
Notre Dame's serving was particularly effective, notching six aces and making just seven service errors. Kelbley and Stasiuk both accounted for a pair of aces. The Utes had only one ace against the Irish serve receive unit, while making 10 errors.
Notre Dame beat a ranked team in three games for the first time since 1995, when the seventh-ranked Irish topped #15 Colorado by 3-0 scores on back-to-back nights in the Joyce Center on Sept. 23 and 24.
The win was the fifth in a row for the Irish, who have now had at least one winning streak of five matches or more in 14 consecutive seasons - every year since head coach Debbie Brown took over the program.
The Irish came out firing early, winning five of the first six points and building a lead of as many as eight points (10-2 and 11-3) before the Utes found a rhythm. Utah would eventually rally to tie the score at 21-21 and take its only advantage of the frame at 22-21. The Irish then won three straight points to break a 24-24 deadlock and take control for good, eventually ending the game on consecutive kills from Kelbley after the score was 28-26. Brewster led the Irish with five kills on nine swings for a .556 percentage in the game.
Utah won the first three points of the second game, but Notre Dame then won seven in a row to take the lead for good. The Utes would pull to within one at 10-9 and 11-10, but the Irish then used an 8-3 run to build a cushion they would protect the rest of the way. Notre Dame would lead by as many as eight three times and eventually converted its fourth game point with a kill from Stasiuk. Notre Dame's blocking was a big factor in the game, as the Irish ended up with six in the stanza. Cooper took part in four of them - including two solo blocks - while Loomis was in on three. Brewster led Notre Dame in kills again, with five on seven attempts (.571), while Cooper had four kills and no errors on nine swings.
After the break, the Utes again started quickly, winning four of the first five points. But the advantage was short-lived, as Notre Dame went on a 14-4 run to open up a 15-8 advantage. The Irish lead would grow to as many as nine, at 21-12, before Utah would rally. The Utes got to within two at 24-22 and 25-23, but Notre Dame then won five of seven points to claim the upset, which ended on a kill from Kelbley. Brewster converted eight of her 14 attempts into kills and did not make an error in the final game.
Notre Dame beat Utah for the second consecutive season, after the Irish prevailed in five games in the 2003 Shamrock Invitational. The Irish have won three of five all-time meetings with the Utes.
The Irish will continue their fall-break trip by traveling to Brigham Young for a 7 p.m. (MDT) match on Wednesday at Smith Fieldhouse in Provo, Utah. The match will be televised live by BYU Television, which is available on Dish Network (channel 9403) and DirecTV PLUS (channel 374), as well as in cable packages in various markets (see http://byutv.org/getbyutv/usmap.asp to check availability in your area). In addition, www.byucougars.com will provide a live webcast, featuring real-time statistics.