Irish tell cocky 'Canes who `better team' is with win
By MATT LOZAR
At the Big East awards banquet Friday night, a Hurricane volleyball player told the crowd "the better team won" when her Miami team ended Notre Dame's 43-game Big East regular season winning streak last weekend.
In Sunday's Big East Tournament Championship, the seven-time Big East regular season champs taught the league's newcomer a little lesson about respect.
A determined and confident Notre Dame volleyball team defeated Miami 30-19, 31-29, 27-30, 30-19 to win its third consecutive Big East Tournament title.
"We absolutely wanted to play Miami for the title," outside hitter Emily Loomis said. "They really fired us up with their comments at the banquet."
Loomis capped off the conference season by winning the tournament's Most Outstanding Player award. Against the Hurricanes, the sophomore from Fort Wayne, Ind. recorded game-highs in kills with 21 and hitting percentage of .462.
The Irish (23-8) got off to a fast start, hitting an incredible .606 in game one and committing only one attack error. Loomis led the Irish with eight kills in the game.
After dropping the first game in Saturday's 3-1 semifinal win over Connecticut, Notre Dame coach Debbie Brown knew her team needed to start strong.
"It was really big for us to come out and play well in game one after dropping the first game [against Connecticut]," Brown said. "It was a confidence boost for the team. To hit .600 in one game is amazing. We were really on."
Keeping the pressure on in game two, the Irish held a comfortable margin throughout the game. The Hurricanes were down 29-25 and facing a 2-0 disadvantage. Getting a block, two kills and capitalizing on an Irish passing error, the Hurricanes tied the game at 29.
But the top blocking team in the country used two of its 10 blocks in game two to win the last two points and take a two games to none lead in the match.
"The blocking was huge at the end of game two, especially if you look at the way we won the game," Brown said. "Ten blocks in a game is another amazing statistic."
In game three, the Irish found themselves down 18-15 after a three-point Hurricane run. Closing the gap to one point three times, the Irish could never break through and were forced to a game four.
Wanting to avoid a decisive game five, the Irish jumped on the Hurricanes (25-5) quickly scoring the game's first eight points and built a 20-8 lead. Miami forced Brown to use a timeout by scoring the next four points.
Out of the timeout, the Irish scored five straight to regain control of the game. Loomis closed out the match with her 35th kill of the weekend.
Freshman middle blocker Lauren Brewster recorded a double-double against the Hurricanes with 15 kills and 12 blocks. Fellow freshman Lauren Kelbley had her second straight 15-kill match against the Hurricanes.
The Irish used their imposing front line to force the Hurricanes into hitting .158 for the match. Big East Player of the Year Valeria Tippiana had 11 kills for the Hurricanes but hit only .025.
With the win, the Irish qualify for their 11th consecutive NCAA Tournament, which begins in two weeks.
All Sports Stories for Monday, November 25, 2002