Nov. 16, 2007
MILWAUKEE, Wis. - The fourth-seeded University of Notre Dame volleyball team earned a win to open the 2007 BIG EAST Conference Championship Friday at the Al McGuire Center. A 3-1 (30-26, 30-24, 23-30, 30-24) victory against Cincinnati, the tournament's No. 5 seed, propelled the Irish into a semifinal matchup with Louisville.
The Cardinals are the tournament's top seeded team and currently rank 22nd nationally. Saturday's match against Louisville will start at 2 p.m. (ET).
Notre Dame extended its winning streak to five matches and improved its overall mark to 14-12. The loss for the Bearcats (18-11) was the second dealt to them by the Irish in the past seven days.
"Tournament time is so much fun for the team," said Irish head coach Debbie Brown. "I like the way the team has been responding down the stretch. We had our backs against the wall four matches ago (before today's match), and we've been in situations where we've felt that pressure to win. Our desire to win is coming through at the right time."
Two Irish players finished with double-doubles, led by senior Adrianna Stasiuk (Park Ridge, Ill./Maine South) who had 20 kills on a .368 clip and 17 digs. Also hitting the 20-kill mark was sophomore Megan Fesl (Arlington Heights, Ill./John Hersey), who totaled 21 smacks for scores. She did so while attempting 50 shots for a .240 mark and had nine digs. Senior setter Ashley Tarutis (Long Beach, Calif./Los Alamitos) had 50 assists and 14 digs. Fourteen digs were scooped by freshman Angela Puente (Redondo Beach, Calif./Bishop Montgomery).
It was the first time that two Notre Dame players recorded 20 or more kills in the same match in almost one year. The last time it happened was Nov. 16, 2006, when Mallorie Croal had 25 and Stasiuk had 23 against Cincinnati in the second round of the BIG EAST Tournament.
Stephanie Niemer led Cincinnati with 19 kills and setter Annie Fesl totaled a match-high 51 assists.
The Irish hit .239 in an opening game that featured several early ties. Neither team broke away until Notre Dame built a four-point lead (11-7). Jenny Custer tied it (20-20) with a kill. Stasiuk tagged with junior Justine Stremick (Langdon, N.D./Langdon Area) for a block to put Notre Dame up by one (22-21). Stremick has a team-best seven blocks. Sophomore Serinity Phillips (Valley Center, Calif./Valley Center) came through with the first of her two aces on the day (23-21) and Stasiuk's fourth kill of the game made it a three-point affair (24-21). Stasiuk then passed the Bearcat freeball to Tarutis and completed the give-and-go (25-21), then Stremick hit shallow on the slide off a Tarutis back set (26-21). Stasiuk won a wrangle at the net (27-23), and then a Stremick kill (29-24) along with a Bearcat error won it for the Irish.
The Bearcats' Stephanie Niemer had a game-high seven kills.
Phillips tossed up a tip over the Bearcat blockers to tie game two at 8-8, but Cincinnati's defense stepped up its performance at the net to put the visitors ahead by two (8-10). Notre Dame composed a four-point swing with kills from Stasiuk (9-10) and Fesl (10-10). The Domers posted a block for the score (11-10) and Stasiuk's ace put her team on top by a deuce (12-10). Two Irish mishaps tied the match back at 12-12, and UC would go on to lead by as many as three (14-17). A backrow attack by Stasiuk fell for the point (16-18) and a Bearcat net violation matted things at 19-19. Phillips' second ace (20-19) and a solo block by Stremick (22-21) set the table for Fesl to put together a string of four kills, and she ended the scoring with an ace to close the set.
Fesl had eight kills in game two, as Notre Dame hit .282 compared to a Bearcat average of .182.
The tables turned after intermission, as the Irish posted a .111 hitting percentage and the Bearcats had their highest mark the match, a .300 average. Notre Dame led (5-3) on Sciacca's ace, but Cincinnati ran off with four unanswered to take a two-point lead. They would lead by as many as nine (22-12) when Fesl shot off with four Irish kills which ate into the lead (25-21), but that would be as close as Notre Dame would get.
A crosser by Stasiuk gave Notre Dame a four-point edge (11-7) after action began in the fourth game. The outside hitter knocked one off the block (14-10) and Tarutis' ace handed the Irish a six-point spread (18-12). Cincinnati's Lindsay Upton had an ace fall to tie things at 19-19. Philips - who finished with six blocks - and Stremick rejected one (21-20) and Fesl lit up the defense with a pair of strikes to provide a three-point cushion for the Irish to work with (26-23). Sophomore Kim Kristoff (Carmel, Ind./Brebeuf Prep) chipped in an ace to set up game point, which was converted with Fesl's 21st kill of the match.
It was the second time in as many contests that Fesl recorded 21 kills, tying a career-best.