Dec. 22, 1997
Harris and Lee Lead Irish to NCAA Regional
By Pete LaFleur
NOTRE DAME, Ind.--When the Notre Dame volley-ball team saw its 1997 season end in NCAA regional play, it marked the final chapter for one of the most successful classmate duos in the history of Notre Dame women's athletics.
Senior outside hitters Jaimie Lee and Angie Harris - who came to Notre Dame in the fall of 1994 as highly-touted prep All-Americans - closed their careers with an offensive assault that firmly established them as one of the top classmate duos ever in Division I women's volleyball.
Lee came through with a career-best 31 kills in the season-ending loss at fourth-ranked Wisconsin, giving her 131 kills in her final six matches and 1,446 in her career - fourth all-time in the Irish record book. Harris, who notched double-digit kills in 20 of her final 21 matches, totaled 17 kills versus the Badgers for a career total of 1,577, second all-time at Notre Dame.
Together, Harris, who battled back from an injury-plagued junior season, and Lee - whose career kill total would be higher if not for a 14-match stint as the '96 team's fill-in setter - combined for more kills (3,023) than any other pair of classmates in Irish volleyball history. In the 17 years of NCAA-sponsored volleyball, the 56 teams that participated in the 1997 NCAAs have combined to produce just six other pairs of classmates who each totaled 1,400-plus kills in their careers, making the Harris/Lee combination all the more unique and noteworthy.
"Angie and Jaimie have meant so much to this program and are two of the most complete players I've coached," Irish head coach Debbie Brown says, who has coached 13 seasons on the Division I level. "It was only fitting to see them both end their careers at the top of their game. They certainly will be remembered as one of the top pairs of classmates in the history of Notre Dame athletics."
Angie Harris serves up another winner.
Harris (492) and Lee (482) combined for nearly 1,000 kills in their final season while becoming the first Irish teammates to both average over four kills per game (Lee's 4.55 kills/gm fell just shy of the Irish record while Harris averaged 4.21, fifth-highest in Irish history). Their individual accomplishments are just as noteworthy, with Lee holding the distinction as the only player in Notre Dame's career top 10 for kills, hitting percentage, digs, aces, blocks and assists. Harris holds seven Notre Dame service ace records - including 239 in her career and nine in a match - while also establishing the Irish record for career kill average (3.97/gm).
"Angie and I have similar strengths but also are great complements to one another on the court," Lee says. "I couldn't have asked for a better situation than to have Angie as a best friend and roommate. We draw strength from one another, both on and off the court."
The future holds plenty of excitement for Notre Dame's 1997 co-captains. Lee - whose '97 honors included a second BIG EAST player of the year award, a third all-district award and a spot on the GTE second team Academic All-America squad - plans to train periodically next semester at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. After a successful stint last summer as captain of the U.S. team that claimed the silver medal at the World University Games, Lee remains focused on competing for a spot on the Olympic team.
"I considered going to Colorado for the entire second semester but I didn't want to cheat myself out of my final few months of college," Lee says. "I want to spend time in Chicago and at Lake Michigan - things I've never been able to do because of volleyball. I'll also be able to finish my credits, graduate and then can focus on training with the national team. They are going to give everyone a chance to prove themselves and playing in the Olympics has always been my dream, so I'm going to work my hardest and take it from there."
Harris is set to graduate a semester early, after taking several summer-session courses the past four years, and will remain on campus during the spring while serving an internship at a local elementary school. She then will take part in graduation ceremonies and is engaged to be married to former Notre Dame football player Jeremy Akers during the summer of '98.
"Jaimie and Angie are classic student-athlete success stories," Brown says. "They achieved great things at Notre Dame and will continue to do so in their adult lives. As a coach, that's the most rewarding thing to see."