Sept. 8, 1997
#20 Notre Dame Volleyball Set to Tangle with #2 Florida, Monday at the Joyce Center
Match to feature some of nation's top players and several players from same club background
|Mary Leffers, a Tampa native, returns to Florida as a member of the Irish.(File photo)|
The #20-ranked University of Notre Dame women's volleyball team (4-2) will play host to a #2-ranked team for the second consecutive season, when perennial power Florida (6-0) visits the Joyce Center on Monday, Sept. 8 at 7:00 p.m.
The Irish--who are 9-7 against nationally-ranked teams at the Joyce Center during the seven-year tenure of head coach Debbie Brown--played host to then-#2 Stanford early in the 1996 season (the Cardinal went on to capture the NCAA title). That match and Monday's clash with Florida represent the highest-ranked opponents ever faced by the Irish at home during the history of the Notre Dame women's volleyball program.
Notre Dame has defeated five top-10 teams during the Brown era but just one team ranked 7th or higher: then-#3 Nebraska in 1993 (3-0), a stunning 15-8, 15-7, 3-15, 15-10 win at the Joyce Center.
Florida returns four starters, led by 6-2 senior middle blocker Nina Foster, who last week was named the national player of the week after pacing three UF wins, including a five-game marathon victory over then-#3 Nebraska. Foster totaled 53 kills on .380 hitting in the Gators' opening three matches, with 17 digs and 13 blocks. She added 40 kills on .329 hitting over the course of three matches on Sept. 5-6, as the Gators captured the championship of the Northwestern Tournament. Foster is averaging 4.43 kills and 1.19 blocks/gm while hitting at an impressive percentage of .359 through the first six matches.
Foster and 6-1 senior hitter Aurymar Rodriguez were second team All-America selections in 1996 while senior setter Nikki Shade was an all-district selection as a junior.
Florida has emerged as one of the nation's premier programs during the 1990s, advancing to the NCAA Tournament semifinals in 1992, '93 and '96. The Gators headed into the 1997 season having posted a record of 202-21 from 1991-96, the most victories in the nation during that six-year stretch. UF was ranked #1 for most of the 1996 season and finished 37-2, after an NCAA semifinal loss to Hawaii.
Notre Dame is led by its senior co-captains--outside hitters Angie Harris and Jaimie Lee--while junior middle blocker Lindsay Treadwell and sophomore middle Mary Leffers are coming off a solid showing at the recently-completed Spikeoff Spokane tournament. Denise Boylan--the first freshman to open the season at setter for Notre Dame since 1988--continues to run the Irish offense while sophomore Emily Schiebout is the starter on the right side, looking to fill the shoes of four-year starter Jenny Birkner (who played all 140 matches from 1993-96).
The 6-0 Harris (4.89 kills/gm) and 5-11 Lee (4.33 kills/gm) are on pace to become the first Irish teammates to average four-plus kills per game in the same season. Harris shares the team ace lead with Boylan (8) and opened the season with three consecutive 20-plus kill matches. Lee--who last week captained the U.S. World University Games team to a silver-medal finish--averaged 4.89 kills/gm over the weekend in a homecoming appearance at the Spikeoff Spokane.
The 5-11 Treadwell (2.36 kpg, .349 hitting) and 6-4 Leffers (2.64 kpg, .306)--who both joined Lee on the Spikeoff Spokane all-tournament team--have put up solid offensive numbers while combining for nearly three blocks per game (Treadwell 1.45, Leffers 1.36). Treadwell's all-around game also has included 1.95 digs/gm.
Boylan has run an Irish offense that hit .233 through an opening six-match stretch that included two matches against ranked teams (#18 Wisconsin, #6 Washington State) and two others against team that received votes in the preseason coaches poll (Louisville and Oral Roberts). Boylan's 12.27 assists/gm would rank fourth in Irish history and best ever by a Notre Dame freshman. She is averaging an impressive 90 assists per ballhandling error (270/3).
Schiebout--who appeared in just 10 matches as a freshman while totaling 13 kills, seven digs and two blocks--is second on the team behind Treadwell for hitting percentage (.322). The 6-1 lefthander is averaging 2.43 kills and 1.19 blocks per game and has served six aces. Schiebout joined Harris on the all-tournament team at the season-opening Shamrock Invitational.
Florida and Notre Dame have split two previous meetings. The Gators downed the Irish 15-13, 15-6, 15-8 at the 1992 Purdue Premier, behind 14 kills from Gudula Staub and 13 from Suzanne Hughes. Nicole Coates and Christy Peters led the Irish in that match with 12 kills each.
Notre Dame evened the series with a 9-15, 15-8, 15-8, 15-7 victory at then-#9 Florida on Oct. 24, 1994. Peters paced the Irish with 17 kills while Harris had 12 kills and two aces in one of the better matches of her freshman year.
Notre Dame's nine home wins over ranked teams during the Brown era include the following: 3-1 over #20 Louisville ('91), 3-2 over #17 Kentucky ('92), 3-0 over #24 Washington ('93), 3-1 over #24 New Mexico ('93), 3-1 over #3 Nebraska ('93), 3-0 over #8 Nebraska ('93), 3-1 over #9 USC ('95) and a pair of 3-0 wins over #15 Colorado ('95).
Notre Dame's 1994 win at UF is one of six Irish victories on the home court of a nationally-ranked team during the Brown era. Those previous wins include: 3-0 at #16 Ohio State ('91), 3-2 at #13 New Mexico ('92), 3-0 at #21 Hawaii ('92), 3-1 at #15 Colorado ('94), 3-1 at #15 Texas A&M ('94) and the 3-1 win at #9 Florida ('94).
Monday's match will reunite several players who hail from the same club program, including four players who trained as preps with the Tampa Bay Juniors: Florida senior hitter Clair Roach, sophomore rightside hitter Jenny Manz and sophomore hitter Sandra Reboucas and Notre Dame's Leffers. Two players from each team spent time with the Circle City Volleyball Club program, which is based in Indianapolis, Ind.: UF junior middle Shannon Mason and freshman middle Heather Wright and Notre Dame senior middle Molly McCarthy and sophomore hitter Mandi Powell.
Finally, Boylan and UF freshman hitter Jerilyn Hattendorf will be on opposite sides of the net after leading Chicago-based Sports Performance Volleyball Club to the national junior championship during the summer of 1997. Boylan and Hattendorf--who also were teammates on the 1996 USA Youth national team--were named to the junior national all-tournament team (Boylan was the tournament MVP) while helping Sports Performance put the final touches on a dominating 100-4 season record.