Oct. 29, 2005
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - In perhaps the biggest volleyball match ever played in the Joyce Center, seventh-ranked Notre Dame (19-1, 9-0 BIG EAST) prevailed over #6 Louisville (20-1, 8-1) 30-28, 30-28, 27-30, 30-27 Saturday afternoon in a battle between the BIG EAST Conference co-leaders witnessed by a crowd of 2,597. The Irish got 21 kills from sophomore OH Adrianna Stasiuk (Park Ridge, Ill./Maine South H.S.) and 20 from senior All-American MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) en route to snapping the Cardinals' 20-match winning streak (and 37-match winning streak in regular-season action). ND, winners of 12 in a row, has little time to celebrate, as another important conference test will begin less than 20 hours after the match ended. The Irish will play host to Cincinnati (16-7, 7-2) at 12:30 p.m. (EST) Sunday in a match to be shown live on ESPNU (channel 609 on DirecTV and channel 148 on Dish Network).
Notre Dame - boasting a program-best national ranking of seventh for the second time - improved to 4-0 this season against top-15 teams and won its fifth in a row against nationally-ranked squads. As has been the case all season when taking on top teams, the difference in the match was an Irish ability to come through at the end of close games. Brewster broke a 26-26 tie with a kill in game one to put ND up for good, and Stasiuk finished it off with a kill on game point. In the second game, the Irish took a timeout when their lead was cut to 27-26, but Brewster delivered kills on three of the next five points - including at 29-28 - to put Notre Dame ahead 2-0 (the Irish have now won 54 in a row when winning both of the first two games). In the final game, the Irish trailed 25-24, but got a kill from Brewster and then a solo block from her - the BIG EAST's leader this year and the 2003 NCAA champ in the category - to go up for good. A solo block from senior OH Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) on the next point kept it going for Notre Dame, which ended the match on a kill by Stasiuk. ND - which knocked off #6 Florida with three straight two-point victories - improved to 24-8 (.750) on the season in games decided by four points or fewer.
The victory was one of the biggest in Notre Dame volleyball history. Only once have the Irish taken down a team ranked higher than sixth, and that was a four-game upset of #3 Nebraska on the same floor on Sept. 25, 1993. Saturday also was the latest in the season that Notre Dame has ever knocked off a top-10 team, excluding NCAA tournament action. In fact, the Irish have beaten a ranked team on a later calendar date in the regular season on just one occasion: Oct. 30, 1991, when unranked ND defeated #20 Louisville, also in four games and in the Joyce Center.
The crowd of 2,597 was the second-highest volleyball attendance in Joyce Center history for a match not played before a football pep rally. The only larger one came on Nov. 9, 2003, in a 3-0 sweep of Miami shown on College Sports Television. Saturday was the seventh-largest volleyball crowd overall in facility history. The Irish came into the week ranking 15th nationally in attendance and have now upped their average to 1,917 per match.
The Cardinals suffered their first defeat since losing to current national #1 Nebraska in the round of 16 of last year's NCAA tournament. Louisville had also won 17 consecutive road matches, dating back more than a year since losing in four games at Tennessee on Sept. 22, 2004. That also was the last time the Cardinals lost a regular-season match. Louisville had won 26 straight conference matches, since falling in five games at Memphis (then a Conference-USA rival) on Oct. 31, 2003.
It was the second consecutive year the Irish snapped a long winning streak, as then-#14 Utah had won a school-record 13 in a row when ND beat the Utes in three games on Oct. 19, 2004.
Louisville ended with statistical advantages in every area but serving. The Cardinals had two more kills (75-73) and a .276-.221 edge in hitting percentage (including higher marks in all four games), while piling up three more assists (71-68). Defensively, they dominated in a matchup of two of the top 10 blocking teams in the country, finishing with a 13-6 edge (including 10 by senior MB Jennifer Hoffman and eight from junior All-American MB Anastasia Yartseva). The Irish came in averaging 3.64 per game - the third-best mark in Division I - but had only 1.50 per game, while the Cards averaged 3.25 per game after coming in at ninth in the nation (3.45). Louisville also had an 84-78 advantage in digs, as well as 88-86 in points.
Stasiuk - last week's Collegiate Volleyball Update National Player of the Week - continued to play at an elevated level, pounding a career-best 21 kills - including one to end the first game and another on match point - on .283 hitting to go with 18 digs and a solo block. She had 22 points, just 0.5 shy of her career high.
Brewster - the BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year - finished with 20 kills on .366 hitting. It was her highest kill output since Notre Dame's last big showdown, when she had 20 on .429 hitting against Florida. Brewster has had 20+ kills on three occasions this season and seven times in her career. She also had four digs and two blocks for 21.5 points. Brewster has been a huge big-match performer for Notre Dame all season, averaging 4.69 kills on .302 hitting to go with 1.69 blocks in the four Irish victories over top-15 teams.
Sophomore setter Ashley Tarutis (Long Beach, Calif./Los Alamitos H.S.) - now 40-9 (.816) in her career as a starter, including 5-1 against top-15 teams - finished with 63 assists, a career high (by seven) for a four-game match. It matched her second-highest total in any-length contest. Her total is the most for an Irish setter in a four-game affair since the current rally-scoring format was adopted and the most in a 3-1 win since Denise Boylan had 67 at Syracuse on Nov. 12, 2000.
Defensively, Henican led the way with her sixth 20-dig performance of the season and the 23rd of her career. Herndon joined Stasiuk and Henican in double figures with 11 of her own, despite playing only in the back row. Kelbley had seven digs, her second-best performance of the season. She also had a pair of solo blocks.
Notre Dame has won 19 of its first 20 matches for the just the second time ever. The 1994 squad began 20-1 en route to a program-best 33-4 record, an appearance in the NCAA round of 16, and a program-best final national ranking of 12th.
The only previous matchup of top-10 teams in the Joyce Center came on Sept. 4, 1996, when #2 Stanford beat #8 Notre Dame in three games. Saturday was the first time the Irish had ever taken part in a match with both squads ranked among the national top seven.
The Joyce Center continued to be a great place for Irish teams to play in big matchups. Notre Dame has now won eight consecutive contests involving two top-10 teams in the facility's south dome, a streak that dates back to 1998 and includes six wins by the Irish women's basketball team and one by the men's hoops squad. Further, Notre Dame teams - across all sports - have now combined for an 11-0-1 record since Jan. 1, 1999, in home matchups between teams ranked among the national top seven.
Volleyball became the sixth Notre Dame sport to have ended a winning streak of at least 20. The Irish football team has done it on six occasions, including snapping a 47-game streak by Oklahoma that still stands as the NCAA record, in 1957. The longest winning streak in NCAA men's basketball history ended on the same Joyce Center floor that played host to Saturday's match, as ND stopped UCLA's 88-game streak in 1974. Also in the south dome of the Joyce Center, the Irish women's basketball team halted a 30-game winning streak by Connecticut in 2001. Notre Dame also ended the NCAA-record winning streak in women's soccer, with a 0-0 tie against North Carolina in 1994 to snap the Tar Heels' 92-game streak. The Irish baseball team snapped a 25-game winning streak by Florida State in 2002.
Notre Dame's 12-match winning streak - which has seen the Irish win 36 of 40 games - is tied for the third-longest in program history. It is the longest since the Irish won 14 straight in 2003.
The Irish now hold a 13-3 advantage in the all-time series with Louisville, including 7-1 at home.
Notre Dame continued to be strong in four-game affairs, extending its current winning streak in 3-1 matches to nine. It stretches back more than a year, since a defeat at Michigan on Sept. 28, 2004.
With the victory, Notre Dame clinched one of the spots in the eight-team BIG EAST Conference Championship, which will be hosted by Louisville from Nov. 18-20 in the Kentucky International Convention Center. The Irish have reached the title match of that event in all 10 years since becoming a league member, winning the championship on eight occasions, including in 2004. This year's title match - which could be an ND-Louisville rematch - will be shown by College Sports Television.
Louisville was led by senior OH Lena Ustymenko from the Ukraine, who finished with 23 kills on .295 hitting to go with 22 digs. Freshman OH Nicole Bateman - a native of Columbus, Ind. - had 14 kills on .294 hitting, while freshman OH Rui Liu from China had 11 kills on 14 errorless attempts (.786), and Yartseva, a Russian, posted 10 kills to go with her eight blocks. Hoffman had nine kills, but was held to just .238 hitting, after she came into the week ranking third in Division I at .457.
The Irish went up by as many as four (10-6 and 24-20) in the second game, but it also was close most of the way. The Cardinals pulled to within one at 27-26, forcing a timeout, but three kills by Brewster - who had seven in the frame - ended the game.
Louisville led the whole way in the third game, but could not go up by more than five (17-12), the largest advantage by either team in the match. Notre Dame came back, and the teams stood tied at 26-26 before the Cardinals used a 4-1 run to end the game. Ustymenko had eight kills and eight digs, while Louisville had 22 kills on .320 hitting as a team. Stasiuk posted seven kills.
Game four featured nine ties and five lead changes, with the final one coming after ND trailed 25-24.
The Irish will face a Cincinnati squad on Sunday that could pull into a third-place tie with Syracuse in the conference standings with a victory. Notre Dame will make its volleyball debut on ESPNU - which only televises events live, precluding Saturday's match from being a possibility due to the station's college football commitments - in the first volleyball match from the Joyce Center ever to be televised live. It will be the second of at least three TV matches for the Irish. It will also re-air on Tuesday at 7 a.m. (ET) and Wednesday at 3 p.m.
#6 Louisville (20-1, 8-1) 28-28-30-27 #7 Notre Dame (19-1, 9-0) 30-30-27-30