Nov. 13, 2005
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The eighth-ranked University of Notre Dame women's volleyball team (24-2, 13-1 BIG EAST) concluded BIG EAST Conference play by defeating Rutgers (11-16, 6-8) 30-23, 30-19, 30-27 Sunday afternoon in the Joyce Center in front of a crowd of 1,554. The Irish finished as BIG EAST regular-season co-champions (along with Louisville), winning at least a share of the regular-season title for the 10th time in 11 years of league membership.
By virtue of a four-game victory over the Cardinals on Oct. 29, Notre Dame earned the top seed in the BIG EAST Championship, to be played Nov. 18-20 in the Kentucky International Convention Center in Louisville. The Irish will open play in the quarterfinals by facing eighth-seeded Villanova (21-10, 8-6) at 12:30 p.m. (EST) on Friday. They beat the Wildcats 30-13, 30-25, 30-23 on Saturday. Notre Dame would then take on either fourth-seeded Cincinnati (18-11, 9-5) or fifth-seeded St. John's (23-8, 9-5) on Saturday at 1 p.m. in the semifinals. The title match is set for Sunday at 3 p.m. and will be shown live by College Sports Television.
Notre Dame's defense held Rutgers below .100 hitting in both of the first two games, and the Scarlet Knights finished with 46 kills and 29 errors for a .124 hitting mark. The Irish have now held six consecutive opponents - and 10 of the last 11 - to attack percentages below .200.
Sophomore OH Adrianna Stasiuk (Park Ridge, Ill./Maine South H.S.) led the way, posting a match-high 14 digs and sharing the team lead with four blocks. She was the only player in the match to register a pair of solo blocks. Her dig total was just one off her season high in a three-game match when not wearing the libero jersey, after she had 15 digs in Saturday's sweep of Villanova. Stasiuk also shared team honors with 10 digs for her eighth double-double of the season and 17th of her career. She finished with 13 points, leading the team in the category for the fifth time in the last month after having done that just once prior in her career.
Senior co-captain and libero Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.) registered 13 digs to extend her streak of consecutive matches with double-digit digs to 21. It is the second-longest string in Irish history, behind her own streak of 32 straight that was snapped in September. Sophomore setter Ashley Tarutis (Long Beach, Calif./Los Alamitos H.S.) added 11 digs to her 38 assists for her 12th double-double of the season and the 24th of her career.
Senior MB/OPP Carolyn Cooper (Houston, Texas/Lutheran South Academy) contributed four blocks, while Tarutis, senior All-American and co-captain MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.), and freshman OH Mallorie Croal (Villa Park, Calif./Mater Dei H.S.) all had a pair.
Tarutis led a balanced attack to a .258 hitting mark. Stasiuk and senior OH Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) had 10 kills each, while Brewster added nine without an error on 20 attempts for a .450 attack percentage. Croal had eight kills on .294 hitting off the bench, playing in the final two games.
Notre Dame continued to serve well, finishing with five aces and just four errors. It was the 11th time this season the Irish have had more aces than errors (after doing so just five times in 2004), including in each of the last five home matches. Kelbley was the only player in the match to register two kills, bringing her season total to a career-high 39. She is just one away from becoming the eighth different Notre Dame player ever to have 40 in a season. Tarutis, Cooper, and Henican also had aces for the Irish. ND now has 187 aces (1.60 per game) on the season to go with 195 errors (2.14) for an ace-to-error ratio of 0.959, which would be the second-best mark in program history.
The Irish allowed just a pair of Rutgers service aces in 65 chances. Stasiuk handled 21 serves perfectly, while Henican made two errors in 28 attempts.
Notre Dame and Louisville both finished with 13-1 records in BIG EAST play, breaking the conference record for victories in league action in a single season. That was previously held by the 2001 Irish team that went 12-0 in BIG EAST action.
Since Notre Dame joined the BIG EAST Conference in 1995, the Irish have failed to win at least a share of the regular-season championship on only one occasion: 1998. ND has won eight outright titles and a pair of co-championships (also 2003 with Pittsburgh). Since '95, no other school has managed to capture more than just a portion of a single BIG EAST regular-season title. Georgetown and Connecticut shared the '98 crown, while Pittsburgh, and Louisville also have earned co-championships.
The Irish will be the top seed in the BIG EAST tournament for the ninth time (ND was the No. 3 seed in 1998 and the No. 2 seed in 2003). Notre Dame has reached the title match of that tournament in each of the last 10 years, winning eight championships (all but in 1999 and 2003) and posting a 19-2 overall record.
With the completion of BIG EAST play for the 2005 season, Notre Dame earned a pair of conference statistical titles and finished among the top three in the league in every team statistical category for the first time ever. The Irish finished first in the BIG EAST in both assists and digs. Tarutis led ND to an average of 15.55 assists per game, while St. John's came in next at 15.51. It is the third time the Irish have led the BIG EAST in assists in league play, having also done so in 2000 (with starting setter Denise Boylan) and '01 (Kristen Kinder). ND has been among the top three in the category in nine of 11 seasons. Tarutis just missed her first BIG EAST individual statistical title, finishing second in assists (13.17) to Cincinnati's Noel Olson (13.35).
The digs title was much more notable, as Notre Dame had never before finished better than sixth in the BIG EAST in dig average in conference matches. The Irish held that spot in each of the last two seasons, but averaged 17.70 in league play this year to easily out-distance runner-up West Virginia (16.76). The Irish were the only team to have a pair of players among the individual leaders in digs, as Henican ended third (5.04) and Stasiuk was eighth (3.70). The sophomore also was the only non-libero among the top 10 in the conference in digs.
Notre Dame finished second to Louisville in four statistical categories: hitting percentage (.289, Louisville - .338), opponent hitting percentage (.145, .142), kills (16.79, 16.84), and blocks (3.26, 3.83). The Irish were third in the only other category, service aces (1.66), behind Villanova (1.69) and Louisville (1.68).
Brewster - the BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year - wrapped up her campaign for the postseason award with another strong performance. In conference action, she averaged 4.02 kills per game (7th in league leaders) on .396 hitting (3rd) to go with 1.43 blocks (5th) for 5.03 points (4th). She joined Louisville senior OH Lena Ustymenko as the only players to be listed among the BIG EAST leaders in four categories.
Kelbley averaged 3.53 kills on .308 hitting in league play and was tied for eighth in service aces per game at 0.36. Cooper finished ninth in blocking (1.23), while Stasiuk averaged 3.28 kills and 3.70 digs per game to go with 0.94 blocks. In addition to her prolific digging, Henican made just 10 reception errors in 512 attempts (taking 52% of opposing serves) in BIG EAST play for a .980 reception percentage.
Notre Dame improved to 12-0 this season at home. The Irish are in search of their third perfect home season, after going 17-0 in 1994 and 12-0 in 2001. ND will play host to Rice and Tennessee in the Irish Thanksgiving Invitational and could also be the site of first- and second-round NCAA tournament action.
The Irish have won all 13 all-time matches against Rutgers and now hold a 39-1 advantage in games won. The Scarlet Knights saw their season end on Sunday, as they entered play with slim hopes of earning the final spot in the BIG EAST tournament.
Rutgers (11-16, 6-8) 23-19-27 #8 Notre Dame (24-2, 13-1) 30-30-30