NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The University of Notre Dame volleyball team opens play in the 2012 NCAA Championship at 5 p.m. (ET) Friday in Lexington, Ky., as the Irish meet No. 14 Ohio State in the first round at the University of Kentucky's Memorial Coliseum.
The winner of the matchup between the Irish (20-9) and the Buckeyes (22-10) will play the winner of the showdown between the host and No. 16 seed Wildcats (20-10) and the East Tennessee State Buccaneers (23-12) at 7 p.m. (ET) Saturday.
All three matches on the weekend will be available through live stats and free live video. Links for both are available on UND.com. For fans looking to travel to Lexington, ticket information is listed below.
"Before the season our goal was to get back to the NCAA Championship," says head coach Debbie Brown. "But we aren't just content getting here. We want to compete hard. There is no such thing as an easy draw in the NCAAs and we have great respect for the Ohio State program. We look forward to the opportunity to extend the season."
Notre Dame is making its first appearance in the NCAA Championship since 2009, when it lost to Ohio, 3-2, in Ann Arbor, Mich. Overall the Irish are 14-17 in the championship, with six appearances in the Sweet 16 and one in the Elite Eight.
The Irish have dropped three consecutive matches after picking up win No. 20 with a 3-2 win over Cincinnati Nov. 9 on senior day. Notre Dame has been carried all year by a balanced squad led by first team all-BIG EAST members Toni Alugbue and Jeni Houser and second team all-BIG EAST selection Maggie Brindock. Alugbue leads the team in kills (385) and is second in digs (267). Houser is second in kills (363) and blocks (88). The Louisville, Ky., native is hitting .322 on the year. Brindock leads the Irish in assists (1,072), is fourth in digs (229) and is hitting an efficient .340, which is tops on the squad. Brindock and Alugbue are also tied for fifth in blocks (68).
Ohio State's berth is the fourth in a row, as the Buckeyes have advanced to two consecutive Sweet 16s. Overall the Buckeyes are 28-18 in the championship and own two Final Four appearances in 1991 and 1994.
The Buckeyes finished the regular season fourth in the Big Ten and had a final ranking of 14 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) and a final RPI of 25. Three student-athletes earned all-Big Ten honors including outside hitter Mari Hole, right side hitter Emily Danks and outside hitter Kaitlyn Leary. Hole was selected all-Big Ten, while Danks and Leary were named honorable mention. Hole led OSU with 331 kills, while Danks had 164 kills, 29 service aces, 106 digs and 62 blocks. She led the team in service aces and blocks. Leary powered home 243 kills to finish second on the Buckeye team.
"They had a very successful season in the Big Ten," says Brown. "They have a very balanced team. They are physical and are used to playing a highly-competitive schedule.
"The serving and passing game will be critical," says Brown. "We need to serve tough and keep them out of system and we need to be balanced attacking them. Passing will be critical to having a balanced attack."
All Session - on sale Monday, Nov. 26th at 9 a.m. ET All session Reserved (all ages) - $12.00 All session Adult General Admission (13+) - $10.00 All session Senior (65+)/UK Student General Admission - $6.00 All session Youth (ages 3-12) General Admission - $4.00
Single Session - on sale Friday, Nov. 30th at 9 a.m. ET Single session Reserved (all ages) - $8.00 Single session Gen. Adm. Adult (ages 13+) - $7.00 Single Session Senior (65+)/UK Student Gen. Adm. - $5.00 Single Session Youth (ages 3-12) Gen. Adm. - $4.00
Will Call opens one hour prior to match time.
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP QUICK HITS
The Irish have a rich NCAA Championship history, having appeared in the field 18 times. Here are the facts and figures on Notre Dame's appearances:
The Irish are:
14-17 overall 1-0 in the round of 56 (opening round) 1-0 in the round of 48 (opening round) 5-5 in the round of 64 (opening round) 6-6 in the round of 32 1-5 in the round of 16 0-1 round of eight
Notre Dame's last appearance in ...
... the field - 2009 (Ohio, 3-2 loss in first round) ... the second round - 2005 (Northwestern, 3-0 win) ... the round of 16 - 2005 (No. 12 Wisconsin, 3-2 loss) ... the round of 8 - 1993 (No. 7 Penn State, 3-0 loss)
Notre Dame's last win: 2005 (3-0 over Northwestern)
Notre Dame's last loss: 2009 (3-2 to Ohio)
The Irish have never competed in Lexington, Ky., in the NCAAs and the trip marks only the second trip to the South for NCAA play ... the other was in Fayetteville, Ark., in 1997.
Notre Dame is 0-3 all-time against Ohio State in the NCAA Championship. Other meetings include:
1996 - 3-2 loss in Notre Dame, Ind. (OSU was No. 12) 1999 - 3-1 loss in Los Angeles, Calif. 2000 - 3-2 loss in Columbus, Ohio (OSU was No. 16)
Overall, the Irish are 3-6 all-time against the Buckeyes ... the last three meetings were all in the NCAA Championship ... before that the teams played six times in the 80's and 90's, with each team winning three times ... Notre Dame's last win came in 1991 (3-0 in Springfield, Mo. for the Southwest Missouri State Invitational)
MORE QUICK HITS
- The Irish locked up their at-large spot in the NCAAs with a tough schedule that saw them play 13 regionally-ranked opponents and six nationally-ranked opponents ... eight of the nine ND losses came to teams with an RPI of 60 or higher, including four in the top 25 ... ND also picked up two huge wins over Louisville (RPI of 4) and Kansas (RPI of 6) earlier this season ... the Irish ended the regular season with an RPI of 38, just five spots behind Marquette, who finished second in the league behind Louisville
- After losing to then-No. 1 UCLA (3-1), then-No. 4 Nebraska (3-0), then-No. 17 San Diego (3-2) and then-No. 5 USC (3-0) to open the season, the Irish picked up their first win over a ranked foe this season Sept. 23 against then-No. 10 Louisville (3-2) ... it was the first win over a ranked team since then-No. 5 Stanford on Sept. 29, 2009 (3-0).
- The win over Louisville also marked the first time this season Notre Dame has rallied from a 0-2 hole to win and improved the Irish to 3-1 in five-set matches this year ... the Irish later rallied from a 0-2 hole on senior day against Cincinnati to earn a 3-2 win.
- The Irish have broken three winning streaks of seven matches or longer this season ... with a 3-1 win over Kansas (now No. 22), ND broke the Jayhawks' nine-match winning streak ... in a 3-2 come-from-behind win over then No. 10 Louisville (now No. 10), the Irish broke the Cardinals' 10-match winning streak ... with a 3-1 win over St. John's, Notre Dame snapped the Red Storm's seven-match winning streak.
- With a 3-1 win over Buffalo on Sept. 1, head coach Debbie Brown picked up her 600th career win ... she won 117 at Arizona State from 1980-88 and has been with the Irish ever since ... Brown also won her 100th BIG EAST regular-season home match with a win over St. John's (3-1) on Oct. 7 and her 500th match as the leader of the Irish program Nov. 9 against Cincinnati (3-2).