Oct. 8, 1997
Notre Dame Volleyball Wins Another Marathon Match with Illinois State
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Four Notre Dame players totaled between 19-23 kills while leading the Irish to an action-packed, comeback victory Tuesday over visiting Illinois State 15-17, 15-7, 11-15, 16-14, 15-9, the sixth straight five-game match between the teams.
The match lasted two hours and 37 minutes, the third-longest match in the recorded history of the Joyce Center and fifth-longest in the recorded history of Notre Dame volleyball. The Irish victory evens the series (5-5), with each team winning three of the six recent five-game marathons.
Notre Dame (10-5) trailed 4-0 in game five before claiming 15 of the final 20 points, a domination seldom seen under the rally-scoring (point-per-serve) format. Notre Dame's 11 kills in the final game included two each from five different starters, with sophomore middle Mary Leffers adding a kill to the clinching run. The 6-4 Leffers capped one of the best serving matches of her career by serving five straight points in the fifth game, turning a 7-6 ISU lead into an 11-7 edge for the Irish.
Leffers totaled 19 kills and just two hitting errors on 33 attempts for a .515 hitting pct., the fourth-best hitting pct. ever by an Irish player in a five-game match (min. 20 att.) and best since Molly Stark's .522 vs. Kentucky in 1992. Leffers--who topped 15 kills for just the second time in her career and came up one shy of her career-high 20 (vs. Ball State in '96)--also served a career-best four aces. The Tampa, Fla. native sparked the Irish early on, totaling 12 kills and no errors on her first 19 swings.
Notre Dame senior hitter Angie Harris (Fort Wayne, Ind.) posted a match-high 23 kills on .373 hitting (51 att.), plus 14 digs and three aces. The other Irish co-captain, senior hitter Jaimie Lee (Spokane, Wash.), had 22 kills (plus 15 digs) while hitting against a tough ISU block that held her to .125 hitting (56 att.) en route to a substantial ISU blocking edge (18-6).
Irish junior middle Lindsay Treadwell (Austin, Texas) came on strong to finish with a career-best 20 kills on .372 hitting (43 att.), plus 14 digs and a timely ace that pushed Notre Dame ahead 15-14 in game four. Treadwell had nine of the 23 Irish kills in the fourth game and made just two errors on 17 swings in the game to help extend the match to the rally-scoring fifth.
Notre Dame's other two starters played key roles in the victory. Freshman setter Denise Boylan (Lisle, Ill.) came up with a match-high 21 digs and totaled 83 aces while directing an Irish offense that hit .307 for the match. The 6-1 Boylan also assisted on two blocks while totaling five kills and no errors on eight attempts. Another Irish freshman, 6-3 opposite Christi Girton (Muncie, Ind.), continued to make valuable contributions, with 12 kills on .242 hitting while assisting on three blocks.
The efforts of Harris, Lee and Treadwell produced the fifth match in Notre Dame volleyball history in which three Irish players have posted 20-plus kills and the first since a three-hour, seven-minute marathon at Georgia Tech on Oct. 13, 1995, when Jenny Birkner had 28, Harris 26 and Lee 22 while the Yellow Jackets won game five 20-18. The other three matches in which three Notre Dame players had 20-plus kills all came at the 1987 Eastern Kentucky Invitational.
Leffers' 19 kills gave Notre Dame its first-ever match with four players having 18 or more kills while Girton helped the Irish post the first match in team history with five players finishing at 12-plus kills.
Illinois State (12-6) had a strong hitting foursome of its own. Michelle Kutcher led the Redbirds with 22 kills (on .254 hitting) and 17 digs while her fellow junior hitter Nikkie McCleary had 20 kills on .304 hitting. Senior opposite Krista Ridder added 17 kills on .371 hitting, with freshman middle Kendra Haselhorst totaling 17 kills (.371) and 13 blocks, including four solos.
A 35-minute opening game provided hints at things to come. The Redbirds dominated at the net, totaling seven blocks in the first game while holding the Irish to .211 hitting. ISU twice served for the game at 14-13 but kills from Lee and Treadwell extended the action. Lee added another kill to force a 14-14 tie but ISU sided out and went ahead on a McCleary kill. Lee's seventh kill of the game kept the Irish alive before a service error from Julie Kress ended the Redbirds' fourth game point. Boylan and senior middle Molly McCarthy then blocked Kutcher, pushing the score to 15-15, but ISU finally closed out the game after a service error from Treadwell, a block by Kutcher and Tiffany O'Connor on McCarthy and Ridder's ninth kill.
Notre Dame made quick work of game two (15-7) thanks to a .513-.231 hitting advantage. Leffers totaled six kills and no errors on eight swings for the second straight game while Harris chipped in seven kills and Lee had five. ISU seized the pivotal third game (15-11) behind .415 team hitting and four blocks. McCleary totaled eight kills and no errors on 17 attempts in the game while Kutcher had eight kills and one error on 15 swings. With ISU leading 10-8, the Irish went with senior setter Carey May but could not shift the momentum.
The Redbirds jumped out to a 5-0 lead in game four, prompting Boylan's return to the setter position, before the Irish battled back behind Treadwell and Harris. With ISU holding an 8-7 lead, the teams produced 10 sideouts before a Leffers kill tied the game (8-8). The score remained tied at 9, 10 and 11 before Treadwell slammed down a set from Harris for a 13-11 Irish lead. McCarthy then came up with a dig on a Ridder attack and Harris converted her seventh kill of the game to bring on game point (14-11). The Irish missed two game-point chances, on hitting errors by McCarthy and Treadwell, before Haselhorst's solo block on Leffers tied the game (14-14).
ISU had a chance at the lead but Lee came up with the dig against McCleary and an attack from Harris then produced an overpass that Treadwell slammed down for her ninth kill of the game. Treadwell's ace off McCleary gave Notre Dame a 15-14 lead but the Irish lost two more game points on a kill by Haselhorst and a service error by Harris. Haselhorst followed with a serve error of her own and Kutcher hit wide on the ensuing serve receive to force game five.
The Redbirds hit just .182 in the final game while producing no blocks, after averaging 4.50/gm over the first four games. Notre Dame wisely went with several tips down the stretch en route to a .333 fifth-game hitting pct. that included just three errors. The Irish also posted two clutch blocks in the fifth game (after having none in the third or fourth).
Notre Dame surged to its 11-7 lead behind Leffers' five straight serving points. Lee and Girton blocked Haselhorst to tie the game (7-7) before Leffers' served her fourth ace, off Kutcher. Harris then came up with a dig on O'Connor and Lee tipped the ball in for a 9-7 lead. The run continued when Boylan and Lee blocked Ridder, followed by one of the most memorable plays of the match, as Harris' off-balance dig on a Kutcher attack set up a rare backrow kill from Leffers. A dump from Boylan pushed the Irish ahead 12-8 and another tip from Lee yielded a 14-9 lead. A kill from Treadwell fittingly ended the match, after Boylan came up with her 21st dig on an attack by Kutcher.