Dec. 3, 2005
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The sixth-seeded and 11th-ranked University of Notre Dame women's volleyball team (30-3) used big blocking and timely hitting to prevail in a tight three-game affair, beating Northwestern (20-12) 30-27, 32-30, 30-28 Friday evening in the Joyce Center in second-round action in the NCAA Division I Championship. With the victory, the Irish earned a berth in the tournament's round of 16 for the first time since 1997 and will face either California or 11th-seeded Wisconsin next Friday, Dec. 9 in College Station, Texas, in a match televised by ESPNU.
The Irish - as they have much of the season in big matches - came through on the big points at the ends of games. After having its lead cut to one (27-26) in the opening game, Notre Dame won three of the final four points - including kills from sophomore OH Adrianna Stasiuk (Park Ridge, Ill./Maine South H.S.) on two of the last three - to prevail. In game two, it was senior All-American MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) who raised her game, pounding five kills in the final 10 points, and junior DS Danielle Herndon (Plant City, Fla./Durant H.S.) finally converted the fourth Notre Dame game point with a service ace. The Irish built a big lead (20-12) in the final game, and then held off a late charge.
The Badgers and Golden Bears will play in second-round action on Saturday at 7 p.m. (CST) in the UW Field House. The winner of that contest will earn a date with the Irish next weekend.
Notre Dame has reached the final 16 in the NCAAs for the sixth time. The Irish have advanced farther than that only once, when they beat Minnesota in five games en route to the 1993 quarterfinals. Notre Dame also was in the round of 16 in 1988, '94, '95, and '97. The Irish improved to 14-14 (.500) all-time in the NCAAs, including 8-2 (.800) at home.
The Irish blocked exceptionally well, finishing with 16 blocks (5.33 per game) and having 18 other block attempts covered by the Wildcats. Brewster - the 2003 NCAA blocking champ who entered the weekend 12th nationally this season (1.59 per game) - led the way with a match-high nine blocks, including three solos. Senior MB Carolyn Cooper (Houston, Texas/Lutheran South Academy) took part in eight blocks, while Stasiuk had four, and freshman OH Mallorie Croal (Villa Park, Calif./Mater Dei H.S.) was in on three.
Stasiuk led the Irish with 16 kills on .364 hitting, while senior OH Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) posted 13 kills and made only a single error on 23 attempts for a .522 hitting mark. Brewster added 10 kills, missing a double-double by just a single block. Cooper had nine kills on .364 hitting.
Senior co-captain and libero Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.) led Notre Dame's floor defense with a match-high 21 digs, her 11th time hitting the 20-dig mark this season (and 27th of her career).
Northwestern was led by sophomore OH Lindsay Anderson, who had 18 kills and nine kills. Junior MB Julie Purcell added 16 kills on .371 hitting. Senior libero Christie Gardner had a team-high 19 digs.
Game one was tight, with 12 ties and five lead changes before the Irish pulled ahead for good at 23-22. Northwestern cut the lead to 27-26, but then kills by Kelbley and Stasiuk put the Irish a point away, and the sophomore converted on game point #2 with another kill. Kelbley had seven kills on 11 attempts in the game, and the Irish used 22 digs - eight from Henican - and six blocks - five by Brewster - to hold the Wildcats to .167 hitting.
The second game had 13 tie scores, but Notre Dame led virtually the entire way. Northwestern's only lead came at 26-25, but Croal and Cooper responded with a block, and a Brewster kill put the Irish up again for good. That was the first of four consecutive times when the score was tied, and Brewster came through with a kill. On the final occasion, it was followed up by a Herndon ace. Stasiuk and Brewster both accounted for seven kills in the game, and Notre Dame hit .316 as a team.
The final frame was tight early - as Northwestern built a 7-4 lead, but then saw the Irish rally immediately. Finally Notre Dame got a big 9-0 run on Tarutis' serve to take control. But the Wildcats would not go away, and they cut the advantage to one on three occasions late, but Brewster ended the match with another key kill. ND had seven blocks and 17 digs to hold NU to 16 kills and 13 errors (.060) in the third game.
California and Notre Dame would play for just the third time ever and the first since the 1991 NIVC Tournament, when the Irish prevailed in five games (16-14 in the fifth) in Fairborn, Ohio. The Bears won the first-ever meeting in three games in Berekeley in 1985.
Northwestern (20-12) 27-30-28 #11 Notre Dame (30-3) 30-32-30