April 16, 2008
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -
The University of Notre Dame volleyball team recently wrapped up its spring season after going head-to-head against some stiff competition from across the country. In addition, two Notre Dame signees set to enroll this fall were recognized on Volleyball Magazine's Fab 50 list released in April.
"I think the importance of the spring season is huge in the progress of the program," said head volleyball coach Debbie Brown. "It's the time that we feel like we can teach the most and make the most changes. Sometimes it's not always the best, in terms of competing, especially when you are trying to teach a lot of things. But I thought that the way we had the spring structured it worked out well for us."
Notre Dame hosted Bowling Green several weeks back, taking part mostly in combined drills and a controlled scrimmage. Brown said the team was specifically able to work on its offense and some aspects of defense against the Falcons. "I liked that it wasn't just playing games, and it was really good for us to start off that way," she said.
That date was followed one week later with a tournament at Michigan, where the Irish were pushed by NCAA Tournament caliber teams such as the Wolverines and Purdue.
The Irish also traveled to Illinois to battle a young Illini team that recently posted its 21st winning season in the last 23 years in 2007. The Illini took eventual national champion Penn State to five games and finished the season at 16-14.
"When we went to Illinois, again it was a situation where we could work with the other coach," noted Brown. "We would play a couple of games and do some type of scrimmage situations. We did about half-and-half, and again it was just really good and allowed us to continue to teach the team and make the changes that we needed to."
An electric atmosphere awaited Notre Dame when it traveled to the Houston area in a college tournament featuring 24 teams, where Notre Dame faced Penn State and Texas, among others.
"It doesn't matter if it's spring or fall or whenever," said Brown. "I think it's a great experience for our team to play against the best squads in the country. I do think that overall the team learned a lot, grew a lot and we improved individually in a lot of areas. We had a primary focus of improving our defense throughout the spring, since we felt like that was one of our weaknesses in the fall, and I definitely think that we did that. It's hard to believe that the spring is already over. It seems like it just started. All in all we are really pleased with the individual and team developments that we made."
The Irish also learned that middle blocker Megan Barnicle and outside hitter Kristen Dealy each found their names on Volleyball Magazine's Fab 50, which lists the top high school senior players in the nation.
Barnicle, ranked 48th on PrepVolleyball.com's Senior Aces list is the latest product from the Chicago-area based club team Sports Performance, joining current rising junior Megan Fesl who also played for the squad. She was part of a St. Francis (Wheaton, Ill.) prep squad that finished second in Illinois' 2007 Class AAA state tournament to cap off the season with a 38-4 record. A native of Santa Barbara, Calif., Dealy made the Junior Olympic all-tournament team after her squad finished fifth in the National division last year. She has since developed into a solid outside hitter for a nationally ranked high school team, and is the country's 53rd best prospect according to PrepVolleyball.com.
The Irish now look ahead to the 2008 season when they open play against IPFW on Aug. 29 in the Shamrock Invitational at the Joyce Center.