Notre Dame's block disrupts St. Vincent's offense in volleyball showdown

Thursday, September 16, 2010
St. Vincent's Amanda Steinbecker sets the ball during the first game against Notre Dame on Wednesday.

Before her team took to the floor against St. Vincent on Wednesday, Notre Dame volleyball coach Tara Stroup told her players not to allow their opponent to get off to a fast start as the Bulldogs had done the night before in a win over Ste. Genevieve.

The Bulldogs promptly fell behind 4-0 as St. Vincent setter Amanda Steinbecker pelted Notre Dame with three aces.

Steinbecker's fifth serve skimmed the net on its way over, allowing Notre Dame to earn a sideout on a kill by Amy Wibbenmeyer.

Things got much better for the Bulldogs from that point, and they defeated St. Vincent 25-16, 25-15 at home.

"We played just kind of sluggish [Tuesday]," Stroup said. "The first four or five points was the same kind of thing like [Tuesday], just bad passes and just kind of sloppy, but then we pulled it together and started playing clean. That's what we've got to do, just minimize our mistakes."

St. Vincent's Alanna Steinbecker tries to hit through the block of Notre Dame's Amy Wibbenmeyer, left, and Kate Edwards during the first game Wednesday at Notre Dame. (Fred Lynch)

Notre Dame took its first lead at 13-12 in game one and never trailed again in the match.

St. Vincent coach Pam Riney said missed serves and Notre Dame's block hurt her team.

"It's just a matter of being consistent," Riney said. "I thought our girls came out strong."

St. Vincent trailed 15-13 in game one when Steinbecker stepped back to serve for the second time, but the scoring opportunity was missed when Steinbecker sent the first serve into the middle of the net.

Notre Dame scored 10 of the next 13 points to close the game before opening up a 12-2 lead to begin game two.

Notre Dame's Shannon Brennan sets the ball for Bailey Martin during the second game against St. Vincent Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2010 at Notre Dame. (Fred Lynch)

Notre Dame middle Kate Edwards and outside hitter Wibbenmeyer combined for two kill blocks in the match's first 10 points, and the Bulldogs' block continued to disrupt St. Vincent's offense all match.

"We didn't block too many over, but we touched a lot of the ball and slowed them down, which means a lot because it helps our defense pick them up easier," Notre Dame setter Shannon Brennan said.

Riney called the block "very intimidating" for her hitters, who combined for 12 hitting errors.

"We've really, really, really been working on blocking and we will continue to really work on blocking because we're not very tall, so we have to be there," Stroup said. "We have to be there to get our highest possible jump or we won't get a hand on it, so we've been really working on it. We're going to keep on with it, but I think it was better tonight."

Brennan said she noticed some frustration from the Indians during the match.

Notre Dame's Allyson Bradshaw spikes over St. Vincent's Monika Smith during the second game Wednesday at Notre Dame. (Fred Lynch)

"Definitely," she said. "If I was the hitter, it would bother me if my balls kept getting blocked and not going down to the floor."

Brennan finished the match with seven kills and 11 assists to go along with five digs while Edwards had five kills and three blocks.

Edwards, a junior who is playing in the middle this season after hitting outside a year ago, and senior Jamie Brugger, who played sparingly last season, are developing into offensive threats for the Bulldogs.

"They're getting more confident because we played a lot of games this weekend and I feel that we got better," Brennan said. "We definitely got better. Our middles are getting more confident and I think the more you set them, and especially I think the more blocks they get, the more confident they get because it feels good to block somebody."

Edwards in particular was able to finish points with authoritative kills Wednesday, something Stroup has said her team must do more.

"She's getting a little bit more comfortable because she had to switch spots," Stroup said. "She's blocking better and she's starting to hit harder. She wants to swing more instead of tip all the time."

While St. Vincent will play tonight against St. Pius, Notre Dame has a 13-day layoff before visiting Advance on Sept. 28.

"It was good to finish the way we did because we don't have another game for over a week, so we're going to have a week and a half of practice," Stroup said. "That'll be good to get those practices and work on a few things before we start up again."

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