Dec. 1, 2005
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -
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The sixth-seeded and 11th-ranked University of Notre Dame women's volleyball team (29-3) survived an opening-round scare to eventually prevail 30-21, 30-25, 26-30, 28-30, 15-13 against Dayton (24-11) Thursday evening in NCAA Championship action in the Joyce Center. One of the highlights was senior libero Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.) breaking the ND record for digs in a match, with 43. The Irish will play host to Northwestern (20-11) in the second round on Friday at 7 p.m. (EST).
"It was a battle," said Notre Dame head coach Debbie Brown. "Dayton played very well. We truly are just really happy to still be playing. We were tested and pushed as far as we could be. This time of year, the most important thing is winning and that's what we managed to do."
Notre Dame - playing in its seventh five-game affair of the season - jumped out to a 6-1 advantage in the decisive game on the serving of senior MB Carolyn Cooper (Houston, Texas/Lutheran South Academy). Dayton would rally, though, eventually tying the score at 13-13. But a Flyers service error handed the Irish a match point, which was converted on a kill by senior MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.). She had a pair of kills and took part in three blocks in the final game.
"We sputtered down the stretch," said Brown. "The beginning of game five was the most fun we had all night. We were relaxed, we were playing well, we were having fun. We got it to 6-1 and then as they started to sneak back in, we started to get tense again. We just have to allow ourselves to have fun and enjoy the game. That's when we play the best. We don't have to have a huge lead to do that because we've played against teams where it's been a battle back and forth. We just didn't find that rhythm tonight."
"We did what we had to in the end," said Henican. "It was enough. Our strength is that we are a team and when we had to, we pulled together."
The Irish - boasting their highest-ever NCAA tournament seeding - advanced to the round of 32 in the national championship for the 11th time in the last 14 seasons. Notre Dame is now 13-14 all-time in the NCAAs, including 7-2 in home matches. The Irish will look to advance to the final 16 in the NCAA tournament for the sixth time - but first since 1997 - on Friday.
Notre Dame held statistical advantages in nearly every category. The Irish got outstanding play from freshman Mallorie Croal (Villa Park, Calif./Mater Dei H.S.), who made just her second start since Oct. 10 and responded with a team-high 18 kills - one off her collegiate high - on .271 hitting to go with a season-high five blocks for 21 points. She was particularly effective early, going into the intermission with 10 kills on .450 hitting.
Sophomore OH Adrianna Stasiuk (Park Ridge, Ill./Maine South H.S.) also was dangerous in the early part of the match, registering 10 kills and no errors on 21 attempts (.476) over the first two games. She finished with 16 kills to go with 19 digs, as well as seven assists, four blocks, and a pair of aces for 20.5 points. It was her fourth consecutive double-double and her 13th of the season. Sophomore setter Ashley Tarutis (Long Beach, Calif./Los Alamitos H.S.) barely missed her first career triple-double, ending with 55 assists, 10 digs, and nine kills, to go with four blocks and three aces - all coming on consecutive points in game four. She helped the Irish to 73 kills on .234 hitting.
Brewster was the most-efficient hitter for Notre Dame, pounding 16 kills on .333 hitting and also ending with nine blocks. In the second game, she moved past two-time BIG EAST Player of the Year and current AVP professional Jaimie Lee (1994-97) for fourth place on the Notre Dame career kills list. Senior OH Lauren Kelbley
(Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) finished with 12 kills.
Henican led Notre Dame's floor defense, which accumulated a season-high 107 digs (21.40 per game). It was the highest dig total for Irish since posting 108 on Nov. 14, 2001, against Illinois State and the most ever for ND in an NCAA tournament match (the previous high was 106 in a five-game win over Minnesota in the round of 16 of the 1993 tournament).
The Notre Dame co-captain had a dozen digs (five in the opening game and seven in the second) at the intermission before exploding for 11 in the third game and 13 in the fourth. She capped it off with five in the final game to tie the Joyce Center record and shatter the Irish record for digs in any-length match, which had been her 37-dig performance in four games at Seton Hall on Oct. 10, 2004. The previous Irish record for digs in a five-game match was 36 by Christy Peters - who has had nearly all of her digs records broken by Henican - on Sept. 5, 1992, against Kentucky in the Big Four Classic in the Joyce Center. The best mark for digs in an NCAA tournament match by an Irish player had been 26 by Henican in last year's first-round contest at Wisconsin.
The Irish senior has delivered two of her best defensive matches in the last six days. She posted 32 digs against Tennessee in a five-game defeat on Saturday, which marked the most for a Notre Dame player in the Joyce Center since Jessica Fiebelkorn had 34 against Bowling Green on Oct. 13, 1992. Henican's career high for a five-game match had been 25 against Long Beach State in 2004, but she has now gone over the 30-dig mark in consecutive matches after doing that just once in her career prior to last weekend. In the last two contests combined, she has 75 digs (7.50 per game). Never before had a Notre Dame player had 30+ digs in consecutive matches.
Thursday continued a season where the Joyce Center has seen some tremendous digging. Heading into this season, the facility record for individual digs in any-length match was 38 by Lia Young from Santa Clara on Sept. 24, 1993, in a five-game victory. On Sept. 4, 2005, Sydney Donahue from Arizona State broke that record with 43 in a five-game loss to the Irish. On Saturday, Tennessee's Amy Morris finished with 42 digs, while Henican posted 32. That set the stage for Henican's 43-dig outburst against Dayton.
The New Orleans native continued her assault on the Irish dig records. She now holds every Notre Dame match, season, and career digs record except for three. Those are for career matches with 30+ digs (Fiebelkorn - 4, Henican - 3), matches in a season with 30+ digs (Fiebelkorn -3 in 1992, Henican - 2 in 2005), and digs in a three-game match (Jessica Kinder - 28 vs. Valparaiso on 9/9/03, Henican - 26, three times). In Thursday's third game, Henican broke her own record for digs in a season. She now has 580 on the year (after posting a record 537 in 2004) and 1,735 in her career. Henican is averaging 5.00 digs per game in 2005, which is on pace to break her '04 record of 4.94.
The only area where Dayton held an advantage was in service aces (7-6), but that was more than canceled out by the fact the Flyers made 16 service errors, compared to only eight for the Irish.
It was the first match between the schools since 1992, but Notre Dame has now won four in a row and leads the all-time series 10-2, including 4-0 in the Joyce Center. The only previous five-game affair came in the first-ever meeting, a win for the Flyers in Indianapolis in 1983.
Dayton was led by freshman RS/OH Kortney Norris from Indianapolis, who had a match-high 23 kills on .328 hitting. Junior MB Faye Barhorst added 18 kills and six blocks, and sophomore OH Robynne Green posted 16 kills. Sophomore libero Adrienne Green led five players in double figures in digs with 29, while freshman Erin Schroeder had three aces, and senior setter Nicole Schoot piled up 60 assists and led her offense to a .216 attack percentage.
The Irish never trailed and pulled away in the middle of game one, with a 12-4 run that put Notre Dame in control of the game. The Irish hit .303 in the game and used four blocks and 16 digs to keep Dayton to 14 kills and 10 errors for .093 hitting.
Dayton's lone lead in game two came at 1-0, but the Flyers stayed close most of the way, as Notre Dame got up six early (13-7 and 16-10), but then could not get a larger advantage. Dayton pulled to within two at 25-23, but Notre Dame won five of the final seven points, including an ace from Stasiuk on game point. Croal had seven kills in the game, and Stasiuk added six, as Tarutis' offense hit .388. The Irish had 27 digs.
Game three featured 11 ties and five lead changes, but this time it was Dayton who pulled away at the end. The Flyers pulled ahead for good at 13-12 and then went up by as many as six (23-17). Notre Dame cut it to two (27-25), but could not get any closer. Dayton used 6.5 blocks and 20 digs to hold the Irish to 16 kills and 14 errors (.038).
The fourth game also was tight, with 13 ties and six lead changes. Notre Dame went up 24-23 on a kill by Croal, but could not finish, as Dayton immediately got kills from Barhorst and Norris and did not trail the rest of the way. The final deadlock came at 28-28, but a Green kill and then a block by Green and Richards forced a game five.
Notre Dame will face Northwestern for the 12th time and the first in the NCAA tournament. The Irish lead the series 7-4 - including 5-1 at home - and have won three consecutive meetings. The most-recent matchup was a 3-0 Notre Dame victory in the Joyce Center in the 2002 Golden Dome Classic. Northwestern's last victory over the Irish came in three games in the Joyce Center in 1990, the year before Brown became the Notre Dame head coach. Brown holds a 30-23 career record against current members of the Big Ten Conference, and the Irish seniors have put together a 6-4 mark against the Big Ten during their careers, including a 3-0 win over Michigan in the 2005 season opener. Notre Dame has had trouble in the NCAAs against the conference, going 2-10 in the postseason against current members, including a seven-match losing streak dating back to 1993.
Northwestern earned its first NCAA tournament victory in seven all-time matches and claimed its first 20-win season since 1988 with a 30-26, 20-30, 28-30, 30-27, 15-12 victory over Texas A&M in Thursday's early match in the Joyce Center.
Friday's victor will head on to College Station, Texas, for regional action Dec. 9-10. The winner will play the team emerging from the sub-regional taking place in Madison, Wis., this weekend. That includes 11th-seeded Wisconsin (which eliminated Notre Dame from the 2004 NCAA tournament), California, Valparaiso, and Loyola Chicago.
Dayton (24-11) 21-25-30-30-13
#11 Notre Dame (29-3) 30-30-26-28-15
Kills: UD 78 (Norris 23), ND 73 (Croal 18)
Attack Percentage: UD .216 (Richards .391), ND .234 (Brewster .333)
Assists: UD 72 (Schott 60), ND 70 (Tarutis 55)
Service Aces-Errors: UD 7-16 (Schroeder 3), ND 6-8 (Tarutis 3)
Digs: UD 95 (Green 29), ND 107 (Henican 43)
Blocks: UD 13.5 (Barhorst 6), ND 15 (Brewster 9)
Points: UD 98.5 (Norris 25.5), ND 94 (Croal 21)