Oct. 31, 2004
VILLANOVA, Pa. - Notre Dame (13-6, 6-0) averaged 4.50 blocks and 20.00 digs per game, as its defense held Villanova (7-16, 1-6) to a .007 attack percentage en route to a 30-27, 30-24, 30-22 victory Sunday afternoon in Nevin Field House. Junior captain L Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.) paced the Irish with 26 digs, which matched the second-highest total ever for a Notre Dame player in a three-game affair. The Irish, who have played 13 of their last 15 matches on the road, will begin a five-match homestand on Friday, when they play host to Connecticut (15-7, 5-1) in a key league matchup.
Henican notched 10 digs in the first game, four in the second, and a dozen in the final stanza to end up with nine more digs than any other player in the match. The total was just two shy of the Irish record for a three-game match, and it tied her output against Sacramento State last month as the second-highest sum in a 3-0 affair in the 25-year history of Notre Dame volleyball. Her 12 digs in the final game matched the high turned in by any Irish player in a game this season; she also had a dozen in the second game vs. Seton Hall en route to breaking the program record for kills in any-length match (37).
The Irish libero accounted for almost 45 percent of Notre Dame's digs, and no other Irish player had more than eight, a total achieved by junior MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) and sophomore DS Danielle Herndon (Plant City, Fla./Durant H.S.). Notre Dame's 60 total digs (20.00 per game) marked the second-highest dig average for the Irish this season, behind a spectacular 26.67 mark (80 in three games) in that match against Sacramento State on Sept. 11.
Villanova ended with 36 kills and 35 attack errors, and their hitting mark of .007 was the lowest for an Irish opponent this season. It marked the fourth time in six BIG EAST matches in `04 that Notre Dame held its opponent under .090 hitting. The last time the Irish turned in a more stifling defensive effort was Nov. 2, 2003, when Syracuse ended up with a -.008 mark (32 kills, 33 errors). The 35 attack errors were the most by a Notre Dame opponent in a three-game match since Boston College had 39 en route to hitting .007 on Oct. 24, 2003. Only twice this season has an Irish opponent had more than 35 attack errors, and both of those totals (41 by Fresno State and Illinois State) came in five-game affairs.
The Wildcats hit negative in both of the final two games, making 13 errors compared to just 11 kills en route to a -.042 mark in the middle frame before notching just nine errors and hitting 12 errors for a -.059 attack percentage in the final game. Of the eight Wildcats that made at least one attack attempt, only one finished with a positive hitting percentage and five hit below -.025.
A key factor in the defensive effort was Notre Dame's block, which started slowly, but then turned in six in the second game and 5.5 in the third to finish with 13.5 blocks on the match. Junior Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) had her second-best blocking match since moving from middle blocker to outside hitter late last season, ending up with five blocks. Brewster, who led NCAA Division I in the category and ranks second in the BIG EAST this season, also took part in five (one solo), while junior MB Carolyn Cooper (Houston, Texas/Lutheran South Academy) matched that output with one solo block and four block assists of her own. In the eight matches in which she has started, Cooper has been Notre Dame's top blocker, averaging 1.63 per game and helping the team average 3.89. Senior MB Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) also took part in four blocks.
The Irish came into the weekend leading the BIG EAST Conference and ranking 12th in the nation in team blocking with a 3.15 average, but a 10-block performance in Saturday's 3-0 win at Georgetown combined with Sunday's output has raised Notre Dame's season average to 3.22.
Loomis was Notre Dame's top offensive threat, finishing with nine kills on a .250 hitting mark for a team-high 11 points. She started off deadly, turning nine errorless swings into seven kills (.776) in the opening game. Brewster made just one error in notching seven kills on .250 hitting, while Kelbley and Cooper added six apiece. Freshman S Ashley Tarutis (Long Beach, Calif./Los Alamitos H.S.) led the Irish with 26 assists, though the offense hit only .115 for the contest. She also had a pair of service aces.
Villanova started quickly, winning five of the first six points before the Irish used a 9-1 run to go ahead. The Wildcats then put together an 11-3 run in the middle of the game to go up by five at 23-18. Notre Dame won the next eight points and eventually converted their third game point with a kill from Kelbley.
Game two was tight most of the way, and the Irish never trailed after going up 11-10. But Villanova rallied to tie the score at 17-17 before the Irish were able to go on a run to end the game.
Notre Dame won four of the first five points in the final game and never looked back, building a lead of as many as 11 en route to an eight-point triumph.
The Irish posted their eighth 3-0 win of the season and sixth in nine matches in October, a month in which Notre Dame went 8-1 and won 26 of 32 games. The second month of the season saw great improvement in the efficiency of the Irish offense and in Notre Dame's block. The Irish hit .244 during October after notching a .211 mark in 10 September matches. Notre Dame's blocking production was 3.66 per game this month after being 2.86 in September.
Notre Dame has won each of the 13 all-time meetings with Villanova.
The Irish improved to 6-0 in BIG EAST play for the sixth consecutive season and ninth time in 10 years as a league member. Notre Dame is tied with Pittsburgh atop the conference standings, and a pair of wins next weekend would clinch the Irish one of the four spots in the BIG EAST Championship, slated for Nov. 20-21 in Pittsburgh. Notre Dame and the Panthers, the league's defending co-champions, will hook up in regular-season play on Friday, Nov. 12 in the Joyce Center at 4 p.m. in a match to be played directly before the football pep rally for the meeting between the schools on the gridiron the following day.