Nov. 23, 1997
Notre Dame Volleyball Claims BIG EAST Tourney Title, 6th Straight NCAA Bid
Lee earns MVP honors after totaling career-best 29 kills in title match vs. Villanova
SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. - BIG EAST player of the year Jaimie Lee turned in a career-best 29 kills to earn tournament MVP honors as the Notre Dame volleyball team claimed an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament with a 9-15, 15-3, 15-10, 15-4 victory over Villanova in the championship match of the BIG EAST Conference Tournament, held Sunday afternoon at Seton Hall's Walsh Gymnasium.
Notre Dame (23-6) will advance to the NCAAs for the sixth straight season and seventh time in the last 10 years. The Irish advanced to the NCAA regional round in 1993, '94 and '95, including a program-best quarterfinal appearance in '93.
Villanova (20-8), the tournament's #2 seed and regular season runner-up, used strong backrow play and timely kills from Marisa Davidson and Elizabeth Jones to claim the first game and stay competitive in the third. Davidson finished with 16 kills while Jones had 12.
Lee hit .317 in the title match, totaling 29 kills and 10 errors on 60 attempts. The 29 kills best the previous Irish four-game record of 28, set by Zanette Bennett vs. Wisconsin in 1987. Lee's previous career high in kills was 27 in the five-game NCAA Tournament loss to Ohio state last season. Lee's 29 kills are fourth-highest ever by an Irish volleyball player and the most since Christy Peters had 31 vs. Santa Clara in 1993.
Notre Dame next plays at the annual Long Beach State Thanksgiving tournament. The Irish will face the nation's current #6-ranked team UC Santa Barbara on Nov 28 before facing the hosts and #1 ranked 49ers on the 29th. The 56-team NCAA Tournament field and pairings will be announced on Nov. 30 (the top eight seeds will host three-team sub-regionals while seeds 9-16 will host four-team sub-regionals), with the first and second round matches to be held Dec. 4-7.
The Irish stretched their winning streak to 10 matches, fourth-longest in team history, and have lost just once in their last 18 matches, a four-game loss at then-#9 Texas on Oct 21. Notre Dame's winning streak vs. conference teams now stands at 76 matches (including 39 in the BIG EAST), the nation's longest active streak and third-longest in Division I volleyball history.
Lee had six kills in the second game and then erupted for 12 in the third to help the Irish seize momentum from the upset-minded Wildcats. Her fellow senior hitter Angie Harris had 14 kills and 13 digs while junior middle Lindsay Treadwell had a team-best 15 digs and had a hand in 11 Irish blocks. Treadwell had eight kills and no errors on 17 swings (for a team-best .471 hitting pct. ) while sophomore middle Mary Leffers had 12 kills and two errors on 22 attempts (.455). Freshman opposite Christi Girton had a hand in six Irish blocks and chipped in six kills.
Notre Dame owned a decisive .325-.140 hitting edge, improving on its .281 season hitting pct. that ranks 13th in the nation. The Irish also owned a 19-13 blocking edge but had problems at the service line, totaling just three aces while racking up 16 service errors.
The Wildcats jumped out in the first game to leads of 11-4 and 14-6, but could not convert on their first five game points before Stacey Evans found the back right corner for the 15-9 win. The Irish were guilty of five service errors in the opening game while the Wildcats came up with several tough digs of strong attacks from Lee and Harris.
The Irish stretched to leads of 8-1 and 11-2 in the second game en route to tying the match (1-1). Notre Dame then led 7-3 in game three, but Villanova clawed back to take an 8-7 lead before the Irish regained control.
Harris recorded double-digit kills for the 16th straight match, equaling the Irish record set by Peters in 1993. Harris heads to the Long Beach tournament just three kills shy of the 1,500 career kill milestone and needs 21 more digs to become the sixth member of Notre Dame's 1,000 kills/1,000 digs club. Sunday's match represented the 34th "double-double" match of Harris' career (10-plus kills, 10-plus digs), tied for third in Irish history.
Lee now has 63 career double-digit kill matches, fourth in Irish history (Harris is first with 84). Lee has hit for 20-plus kills in 12 career matches, including four in 1997.