Aug 15, 2013
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - While most University of Notre Dame incoming freshmen are soaking up the last of summer's rays as they wait for move-in day in another week, Simmone Collins and Katie Higgins of the Irish volleyball team are fully entrenched in the 2013 preseason, which has seen them participate in six practices in the five days since camp opened Saturday.
While the first camp as a freshman Notre Dame student-athlete can usually be tough and maybe even a little awkward, the pair has jumped right in and developed a comfort level not only with teammates and coaches, but also with how practice works at an elite Division I volleyball program.
"I think we started off with fundamental things and now we are really getting into the dynamics and the mental part of the sport," said Collins. "It's a little bit faster for sure, but it's still the same game, just at the college level."
"I think we have gradually gotten adjusted to the speed of practice," said Higgins. "Today (Wednesday) we went very fast as the team and coaches have done a great job of getting us involved. I think we are caught up now."
With only two freshmen and three underclassmen total on the roster, both expected the team to be heavily upperclassman run, but have been pleasantly surprised.
"I was really surprised with how accepting the team has been," said Collins. "I thought maybe we would just be the baby freshmen, but that hasn't been the case at all. The expectation is exactly the same for every player. We are expected to perform and to be just as vocal."
Collins and Higgins aren't the only ones who have been pleased with how practice has gone thus far. Head coach Debbie Brown has seen the pair step in and contribute immediately as the Irish continue preparations for their season opener in two weeks.
"I'm really pleased with both of them right now," said Brown. "I just told them after practice that if someone came in to watch and didn't know who was who, there's no way they would be able to pick them out as the two freshmen on the team. They are vocal and are getting right in there and competing with their teammates. Their skills are good. I'm just really pleased with how they are adapting and how they are working into the team."
The Irish kick off the 2013 campaign Aug. 31 when they meet Atlantic Coast Conference foe North Carolina in a non-conference match at the Blue Raider Bash in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Notre Dame continues its preseason work Thursday with two practices. The first will be from 9-11 a.m., and the second from 2-5 p.m.
-- Russell Dorn