Tigers upend No. 8 Notre Dame

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- For the first time since 1992, the LSU volleyball team knocked off a top 10-ranked opponent, defeating No. 8 Notre Dame, 30-28, 30-22, 23-30, 26-30, 20-18, on Sunday afternoon at G. Rollie White Coliseum to claim the Nokia Sugar Bowl Classic championship.

With the win, the Tigers improved to 10-1 on the season and have won three of the four pre-conference tournaments in which they have participated. The Fighting Irish dropped their first match of the season and fell to 7-1 on the year, after knocking off three nationally ranked teams this season.

"I don't think I have ever been more proud of a team and the way we competed," said LSU head coach Fran Flory. "Notre Dame is an outstanding team. We came in here and executed the game plan that we drew up and it worked. When they adjusted in the third and fourth games, we showed resiliency and that we are a mentally tough group.

"I think the most important thing was the way this team handled adversity," Flory continued. "We had several calls not go our way and we thought we had the match won at one point, but we fought back from that. We learned from our five-game loss to Texas A&M. I think this win will lead to bigger and better things for this team."

The win marked the first victory for LSU over a nationally ranked team since a 3-0 win over No. 18 Texas Tech on Dec. 5, 1992 and the first over a top 10-ranked team since a 3-0 win over No. 9 New Mexico on Sept. 13, 1992. It is also the first win over a nationally ranked team in the Fran Flory era.

Senior Ivana Kuzmic recorded a season-best and match high 13 blocks, her second double-figure blocking match of the season. With her second block of the match, she recorded the 600th block of her career, becoming just the third player in LSU history to record 600 blocks, although her first two seasons were at Arkansas-Little Rock.

Senior Jelena Mijatovic tied her season high with a match-best 25 kills and posted her fifth double-double of the season with 14 digs. Freshman Marina Skender recorded a career-best with 19 kills, while freshman Kyna Washington tied her career best with 17 digs and recorded her second consecutive double-double with 11 digs.

Freshman Heather Fierce led the Tigers with 19 digs, while also posting a team-best 34 assists for her second double-double of the season. Junior Daniela Romero also recorded a double-double with 27 assists and 11 digs. Junior Kassi Mikulik was the final Tiger in double figure in digs with 15.

Notre Dame was led by Mallorie Croal with 19 kills and 16 digs, while All-American Lauren Brewster recorded 14 kills. Adrianna Stasiuk led the match with 24 digs for the Irish.

In the first game, the Tigers took the early lead and led by as many as four, 10-6. Notre Dame came back and tied the game at 11 all. The Tigers retook the lead, 12-11, and held the lead until the Fighting Irish tied it up again at 22 all. Notre Dame took its first lead at 23-22 and held a one point advantage at 24-23 as well. LSU tied it up at 24 and the game was tied four more times before the Tigers took the lead for good at 29-28. LSU scored the final two points to take the game one lead, 30-28.

In the second game, the Tigers fell behind 2-0, but stormed back with a 3-0 run to take the lead for good. Tied at four, LSU went on a 4-0 run that stretched the lead to 8-4. The Tigers led by as many as 10 points, 20-10. Notre Dame got back to within seven, but could get no closer as LSU went into the locker room with the two-game advantage, 30-22.

The Tigers fell behind in the third game and trailed by as many as five, 12-7 before fighting back to tie the game at 20 all. With the game tied at 23, the Fighting Irish went on a 7-0 run to close out the game and keep the match alive, 30-23.

The fourth game was a dogfight from beginning to end, with 14 ties between the pair. The Tigers took the 16-14 lead, but Notre Dame came back to tie it up at 19 all. With the Fighting Irish leading 24-21, LSU got back within one, 26-25 and again, 27-26, but a controversial call by the referee awarded Notre Dame the next point as the Irish went on to take the game, 30-26 and send the match to a fifth game.

The Tigers came out and took the 7-3 lead in the decisive final game, but the Irish would not go away easily. Notre Dame came back to tie the game at 13 all. LSU scored next to send it to match point for the first time. The Irish fought off two match points before earning match point of their own. The Tigers came back to tie it up and on their fourth match point, an attack error by Notre Dame gave LSU the match, 20-18.

LSU will remain on the road to open SEC play next weekend. The Tigers were scheduled to open conference action at home, but due to Hurricane Katrina, the matches have been moved to Fayetteville, Ark.

LSU will now take on South Carolina on Friday, Sept. 23 at 4 p.m. before closing out the weekend against No. 16 Tennessee on Sunday at 10:30 a.m. The matches will be played as part of doubleheaders with Arkansas. The Lady'Backs, as LSU's travel partner in volleyball, face the same SEC teams the Tigers do each weekend.

Due to these schedule changes, LSU's first home match has been delayed until Oct. 14 against Mississippi State. The Tigers will have been on the road for seven consecutive weekends, having played 17 road matches, to start the season before returning home to the Maravich Center in mid-October.

LSU def. No. 8 Notre Dame, 30-28, 30-22, 23-30, 26-30, 20-18

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