Nov. 6, 2005
PITTSBURGH, Pa. -
The fifth-ranked University of Notre Dame women's volleyball team (22-2, 11-1 BIG EAST) saw its 15-match winning streak halted in a five-game affair Sunday afternoon against BIG EAST Conference rival Pittsburgh (16-9, 9-3), falling 23-30, 15-30, 30-27, 30-28, 15-13 in Fitzgerald Field House. The Irish will return home next weekend for a pair of matches, first facing Villanova on Saturday at 10 a.m. (EST) and then playing host to Rutgers on Sunday at 2 p.m.
Notre Dame took a 10-8 lead in the final game, but Pittsburgh then went on a 6-1 run to make it 14-11 and stand just a point away from the upset win. The Irish saved two game points, one with a kill from sophomore OH Ellen Heintzman (Louisville, Ky./Sacred Heart Academy) and the other on a block by seniors MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) and MB/OPP Carolyn Cooper (Houston, Texas/Lutheran South Academy). After a Pitt timeout, Irish sophomore OH Adrianna Stasiuk (Park Ridge, Ill./Maine South H.S.) delivered her fourth service error of the match to give the Panthers the victory.
Sunday's match was a tale of two performances by both teams, as the intermission marked a stark turnaround in play. The first two games made it look as though the Irish would cruise to their 16th consecutive victory, as ND extended its streak of consecutive games won to 12 with a 30-15 doubling-up in the second game. Over the first two games, the Irish had 33 kills (16.50 per game) on .342 hitting to go with nine blocks (4.50 per game) and posted two aces and six service errors. After the intermission, the Irish registered just 32 kills (10.67 per game) on .042 hitting to go with five blocks (1.67 per game) and had just one ace with eight service errors. Pitt hit .062 in the first two games and edged that up to .117 over the final three, but the big difference was the Panthers block. Pittsburgh managed just a single block over the first two games, but then posted 15 during the final three games. In the end, the Irish won seven more points, but lost the match.
Both Irish losses this season have come in five-game affairs. In all, Notre Dame has saved a total of six match points in those defeats. ND lost 20-18 in the final game on Sept. 18 against LSU.
Brewster - a 2004 All-American and the '05 BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year - had a strong match offensively, finishing with 20 kills on match-high .364 hitting. It was her fourth time posting 20+ kills this season. Senior OH Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) added 16 kills for the Irish, while Cooper had nine and Stasiuk added eight.
Notre Dame's defense used 74 digs and 14 blocks to hold Pittsburgh to just a .094 attack percentage, and the Panthers hit below .200 in every game. The Irish were led by Cooper, who had seven blocks, while Brewster was in on six and Stasiuk took part in four. Senior co-captain and libero Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.) led the team with 17 digs, while Stasiuk added 13, as did sophomore setter Ashley Tarutis (Long Beach, Calif./Los Alamitos H.S.), and junior DS Danielle Herndon (Plant City, Fla./Durant H.S.) posted a dozen.
The service error on match point capped an uncharacteristically bad serving day for the Irish, who had just three service aces and made 14 service errors, the most for Notre Dame in any match in more than a year, since having 15 on Oct. 13, 2004. The Irish came into the match with a service ace-to-error ratio of 0.807 (an ace for every 1.24 errors), which was on pace to be the second-best mark in program history.
Notre Dame captured the first two games, but then lost the next three by a total of seven points to see its streak of 57 consecutive wins when taking a 2-0 lead snapped. It was the first loss after winning the first two games for the Irish since Sept. 18, 2002, when Purdue rallied for an 18-30, 29-31, 30-27, 30-26, 15-6 win in West Lafayette, Ind.
Sunday was reminiscent of the last time the Irish visited Fitzgerald Field House for a regular-season match. On Nov. 16, 2003, Pittsburgh prevailed 20-30, 30-26, 30-25, 13-30, 15-13 against Notre Dame to deny the Irish a perfect 12-0 record in BIG EAST Conference play.
Notre Dame's winning streak was halted at 15, meaning it will go in the record books as the second-longest in the 26-year history of the Irish varsity program. The only longer one was a 17-match string in 1986. This was the longest since current head coach Debbie Brown took over the reins of the program in 1991.
#5 Notre Dame (22-2, 11-1) 30-30-27-28-13
Pittsburgh (16-9, 9-3) 23-15-30-30-15
Kills: ND 65 (Brewster 20), Pitt 61 (Andreyko 23)
Attack Percentage: ND .160 (Brewster .364), Pitt .094 (Cherven .300)
Assists: ND 58 (Tarutis 50), Pitt 56 (Taurence 49)
Service Aces-Errors: ND 3-14 (three players, 1), Pitt 2-7 (Andreyko & Ullery 1)
Digs: ND 74 (Henican), Pitt 82 (McGrane 32)
Blocks: ND 14 (Cooper 7), Pitt 16 (Creighton 7)
Points: ND 82 (Brewster 23.5), Pitt 79 (Andreyko 26)