Irish Conquer Fifth-Ranked Stanford, 3-0

NOTRE DAME, Ind. — For just the second time in program history — and the first since 1993 - the Notre Dame volleyball team earned a win over a top-five opponent, as the Irish dealt No. 5 Stanford a 3-0 loss on Saturday, Aug. 29, 2009, at the Joyce Center Fieldhouse. The Irish earned the sweep (25-22, 25-20, 25-21) on the second day of the Shamrock Invitational, played in the fieldhouse while the arena underwent renovation.

Notre Dame's last win over a ranked opponent came at home against Louisville on Nov. 11, 2007, while the lone win versus a top-five opponent came on Sept. 25, 1993, when the 14th-ranked Irish defeated No. 3 Nebraska at the Joyce Center.

The Irish and Cardinal last met in 2003 with Stanford pulling out a 3-0 win. The 2008 NCAA Championship runner-up had never dropped a match to Notre Dame in six tries until that meeting in 2009.

A scrappy Irish defense scooped 40 Cardinal shots with two players recording a pair of blocks. Notre Dame out-hit Stanford, .300 to .261, and was led by senior outside hitter Serinity Phillips' 12 kills. Phillips had a team-high nine digs and junior middle blocker Kellie Sciacca chipped in nine kills on a .400 clip with three blocks. Senior outside hitter Christina Kaelin played in a pair of sets and finished with four kills, including two significant blasts late in the third to put the Irish in control of the match for good.

Senior setter Jamel Nicholas assisted on 34 kills and was matched by sophomore outside hitter Kristen Dealy in the digs category with eight. Dealy added nine kills.

Stanford received double-digit kill efforts from Cassidy Lichtman (13) and Alex Klineman (11). Gabi Ailes led all players with 11 digs and Stephanie Browne posted five blocks.

The first set saw Notre Dame turn an early 0-2 deficit into a 4-3 lead when Sciacca registered a kill off the Cardinal double block. She then converted a soft tip into the double block to make it 5-3 in favor of the home team. Sciacca stepped up with a solo block at the end of a four-point Irish surge (10-5), capping a rally that featured pancakes from senior outside hitter Megan Fesl and Dealy to keep the action alive.

But the Cardinal mounted an admirable comeback of their own to close the gap to 11-10. Senior middle blocker Tara Enzweiler, who finished the evening with three kills and two blocks, popped a slider to the far corner at 12-10 before a pair of Irish hitting errors made it 16-16. The next two points went the way of the Irish and Dealy slammed a kill off the head of a Cardinal blocker (21-18) to give the Irish some room to work with. Down the stretch, Phillips tacked on three of her five kills in the set, including the set-winner, as the Irish wrapped up the opening frame with a .387 hitting percentage.

Six stalemates and a pair of lead changes came about early in the second set. Ailes' service error gave Notre Dame a 9-8 lead and an advantage it would not relinquish for the remainder of the stanza. Phillips and Enzweiler continued their recent trend of tag-teaming at the net with a block at 10-8 to help Notre Dame gain momentum. Junior defensive specialist Angela Puente checked in at 16-12 before delivering an ace to the back right corner. Stanford scored on the next two rallies before Lichtman served long at 18-14, though Notre Dame returned the favor one play later. Puente came through with an overpass that fell for a kill when neither Enzweiler nor Stanford's Janet Okogbaa could get a hand on the ball in a joust attempt at 19-15. Two more Irish hitting errors brought the Cardinal to within two (19-17). Phillips went through the double block on the left side to make it 20-18 then found a huge opening in the Cardinal defense with another bouncer at 22-19. Kaelin's first kill was too much for the Cardinal to handle at 23-19 and the Irish took advantage of Stanford's third service error of the set to earn their final point.

The Irish took the 2-0 match lead by overcoming a .216 hitting percentage and eight attack errors in the second set.

Stanford surged ahead after the intermission, taking the first three scores and holding on to the lead until Phillips' kill tied things at 12-12. Junior outside hitter Stephanie Slatt sparked the Irish with three of her trademark float serves to put the Cardinal on their heels. Dealy came up big by smacking a kill past 6-foot-6 Hayley Spelman in a one-on-one matchup, and then took it to the 6-foot-4 Klineman two plays later. Sciacca did her job by sending back an overpass that gave Notre Dame its first lead at 13-12. Phillips' ace put Notre Dame ahead, 15-12, and a Cardinal error extended the Irish lead to four tallies. Sophomore libero Frenchy Silva assisted on Nicholas' dump at 19-15, but Stanford came within three points on three occasions down the homestretch. Kaelin turned on the heat with three kills after the 22-19 mark to help put the final touches on the visitors.