Notre Dame coach Debbie Brown has learned valuable lessons through parts of five decades in the sport, with common themes of family, faith and friendship guiding her along the way.
A former All-America setter, Louella Lovely is in her fourth year as an assistant coach for the Notre Dame volleyball team. Her duties include assisting in all aspects of the program with an emphasis on coaching the Irish setters.
Over the past three seasons, Lovely has helped the Irish compile a 74-20 (.787) record, winning three BIG EAST regular-season titles and a pair of league-tournament crowns. During that time, Notre Dame's offense has averaged 15.61 kills and 14.21 assists per game with a .243 hitting percentage.
She was instrumental in the 2005 campaign that was one of the best in Irish history, as ND peaked at fifth in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) poll before posting its first 30-win season since 1994 (while four defeats came in five-game matches). The Irish went 5-1 against top-15 teams and earned an all-time high seeding of No. 6 in their 14th consecutive trip to the NCAA Championship. Notre Dame played host to the first two rounds and advanced to the round of 16 for the first time since 1997 before falling in five games. The Irish also had a 15-match winning streak and spent a program-record 11 weeks in the AVCA top 10. The squad featured the first player in program history - 2006 graduate Lauren Brewster - to be both an athletic and Academic All-American.
Second-year setter Ashley Tarutis broke the ND record for assists in a season (1,573) in 2005 while leading the BIG EAST Conference in assist average (12.86). In addition to a .251 hitting mark, the Irish averaged 15.97 kills and 14.91 assists per game in `05, with both marks standing as the best for Notre Dame since 2000. In conference action, the Irish hit .289 (second in the league) and posted their second-best BIG EAST averages ever for kills (16.79; ranked second) and assists (15.55; first). Lovely also helped the Irish post the second-highest hitting mark in program history (.522 vs. DePaul), a performance that included the best-hitting game ever by Notre Dame (.812, 14-1-16, in the third game).
After joining the staff in the spring of 2003, Lovely helped the Irish to one of their most successful seasons in recent years, as Notre Dame used a 14-match winning streak to open 21-2 and rocket to 12th in the national rankings. Among the keys to the `03 success were Irish setters Kristen Kinder and Kelly Burrell, who ran a 6-2 offense for the first part of the campaign before switching to a 5-1. Notre Dame's .288 hitting percentage in conference matches was by far the best in the BIG EAST (Miami was next at .245), while its 16.26 kills and 14.79 assists per game were second to the Hurricanes. The Irish finished 47th in Division I in overall team hitting percentage (.251), while Kinder was a first-team all-BIG EAST selection and the first Notre Dame setter ever named honorable mention All-America by the AVCA.
Her second season provided a new challenge, as Lovely was the mentor to rookie Tarutis, who handled the majority of the setting duties, with Burrell also contributing. Notre Dame again was tops in hitting in conference action (.254) and hit over .300 in six matches despite having setters that entered the season with just two career starts between them. Tarutis nearly made history in her first career start, as the Irish came just shy of their biggest victory (in terms of national rankings) in program history, falling in five games against #2 Nebraska.
During the summers of 2005 and '06, Lovely was one of three coaches at the U.S. Junior A2 Team camp, which was developed to expand top-level coaching to players who are not on one of the U.S. national teams, but have the potential to earn spots in the future. The program ran for a week at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and included some of the top American players born since 1986.
A 1997 graduate of Cal Poly, Lovely began her playing career at the Air Force Academy in 1993 before moving to California-Berkeley in 1995. She garnered AVCA all-region honors in `93 and '94 as a setter for the Falcons, also earning AVCA All-America accolades in '94.
The 1996 season found Lovely at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, where she was team captain under former Notre Dame assistant coach Steve Schlick. She excelled both on and off the court for the Mustangs, being named the Big West Conference Scholar Athlete of the Year in 1998 and copping the Arthur Ashe, Jr. Sport Scholar Awards in both 1997 and `98. She capped her stellar academic career with an NCAA Ethnic Minority Postgraduate Scholarship in 1999.
Lovely utilized that scholarship at California, where she earned a master's degree in Education, Literacy and Culture: Athletes and Academic Achievement.
Born April 25, 1974, in Kingsport, Tenn., Lovely also worked as an assistant coach at California in 1998 before moving to Deutsche Bank Securities in 1999. She also coached club for the Golden Bear Volleyball Club from `99 to '03.