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    Third-Set Rally Vaults Irish Into BIG EAST Championship's Second Round

    FIGHTING IRISH Notre Dame advances to the second round of the BIG EAST Championship with a matchup versus St. John's ahead on Saturday.
    FIGHTING IRISH
    Notre Dame advances to the second round of the BIG EAST Championship with a matchup versus St. John's ahead on Saturday.
    FIGHTING IRISH

    Nov. 21, 2008

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    PITTSBURGH, Pa. - On its quest for a 10th BIG EAST Conference tournament title, the Notre Dame volleyball team downed Connecticut, 3-0, Friday at Fitzgerald Field House in the opening round of the 2008 BIG EAST Championship. The fifth-seeded Irish posted set scores of 25-19, 25-19 and 25-22 in their 11th sweep of the season while overcoming a late three-point deficit (21-18) in the third frame before storming back for the win.

    Notre Dame (15-13) and fourth-seeded UConn (21-9) previously faced each other in both team's regular-season finale on Nov. 16, with the Irish pulling out a 3-2 home win. The Irish play Saturday at 1 p.m. (ET) against St. John's, the tournament's No. 1 seeded squad.

    The Irish hit .337 as a team and over .300 in each of the periods behind junior setter Jamel Nicholas' match-high 34 assists. Freshman Kristen Dealy led all players with 16 kills on a .483 clip with eight digs while freshman Frenchy Silva steadied the Irish with 10 scoops.

    UConn was paced by Rebecca Murray who had 10 kills and three blocks.

    Set one began with a 3-0 Husky run halted by a UConn hitting error. Senior Justine Stremick came through with a kill at 5-5 and Notre Dame took advantage of a free ball which was pounded by junior Serinity Phillips at 7-6. Back-to-back kills from junior Christina Kaelin, who finished with seven kills, helped the Irish keep an 11-10 lead on a Husky ball handling error. Phillips and Stremick posted a double block (14-12) and sophomore Stephanie Slatt carved the Huskies for an ace (15-12) before Dealy went to work. Dealy got a kill from the left side (16-12) then hit off one foot (17-13) before going back door (22-17).

    UConn's Annie Luhrsen began the second frame with an ace but gave the point back with a ball handling error. Sophomore Kellie Sciacca made the best of Nicholas' quick set (4-3) and two rallies later the duo connected again, this time with Sciacca laying down a left-handed tip. She followed that with one of Notre Dame's three service aces in the match. Stremick whacked an overpass (9-6) and got in front of a Husky attack for a solo block (11-6) to help the Irish gain momentum. Dealy went cross court at 18-10 but UConn staged an emotional rally to cut the count to 22-17. Sciacca stayed calm and knocked a kill though a triple block (23-17) then rifled a crush on the slide (24-18) to put Notre Dame in the driver's seat.

    Jessica Isaac slid a pair of aces past the Irish after coming out of the locker room to give UConn a 7-3 lead in the third set. The Huskies enjoyed one of their largest comfort zones of the match, 9-4, prior to Dealy sailing for a pair of attacks from the back row. Slatt sliced another ace (13-15) to force a Husky timeout and junior Megan Fesl chipped into the UConn lead with a solo block (14-15). Sciacca went to the short corner (19-21) and Dealy's kill at 21-22 pushed the Husky hand to call another timeout. The Irish continued to set Dealy who went through a pair of blockers (22-22) and launched a sweet swing from the left side (23-22) to help seal the Irish win.

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