August 18, 1998
"Don't fear the unknown" could very well serve as the rallying
cry for the 1998 Notre Dame volleyball team, as it looks to
extend the program's place among the nation's elite programs.
"This season should be very interesting, because so many things
are up in the air," said eighth-year Irish head coach Debbie
"We have so many people that can play different positions and we
have a couple question marks as far as injuries go. There are
just too many unknowns at this point, but we are excited about
our overall talent level and the team's attitude."
Such uncertainty stems from several areas:
- A group of 10 returnees from last season's 25-9 squad, led by just two healthy players with major starting experience-senior middle blocker Lindsay Treadwell and sophomore setter Denise Boylan.
- A potentially dominating player-junior middle blocker Mary Leffers-who is working through surgery and rehabilitation from an anterior cruciate ligament injury to her right knee, suffered late in the 1998 spring season.
- A leftside hitter position that holds the considerable void of '98 graduates Angie Harris and Jaimie Lee, one of the top classmate combinations in NCAA history.
Debbie Brown enters her eighth season at the helm of the Irish.
- A rightside hitter position that is looking for a return to the stability and consistency of 1997 graduate Jenny Birkner, who played all 140 matches of her four-year career.
- An inexperienced team that could look to juniors Mandi Powell (just 82 career games played) and Emily Schiebout (53 career games) to fill two of the open starting spots.
- A third junior, Lauren Stettin, who fills the important role of backup setter but is looking to return from offseason back surgery.
- A two-member senior class that is led by Treadwell, who gets her shot as team captain after playing a major role during her first three seasons.
- Versatile frontline players such as Christi Girton and fellow sophomore Jo Jameyson, who each could end up playing on the left, middle or right side.
- A desperate need for passing after the loss of Harris and Lee, with Girton, Powell and Treadwell ranking among the team's top primary passing candidates.
- A group of five newcomers who comprise each of the primary four positions, led by national Fab-50 selections Marcie Bomhack and Malinda Goralski plus versatile Kristy Kreher and late additions Michelle Graham and Emily Tarpoff.
- Competition in the improving BIG EAST Conference, which sent two teams to the 1997 NCAAs (Notre Dame and Villanova) while finishing seventh in the national conference power rankings.
10 players return from last year's Irish squad which finished 25-9.
"We're a young team but we have very good athletes with good
skills-the only thing we lack is experience," said Brown, whose
1998 squad includes seven former national "Fab-50" prep players.
"The team could just keep getting better and will begin to gel as
we get experience. And Treadwell's leadership will be a real key
One noteworthy change could be in the area of set distribution.
"Last year, with Angie and Jaimie, we knew that our experience
was on the outside and that they were going to get more of the
sets," said Brown. "But this year our goal is to have as balanced
an offense as possible. That just makes it that much harder to
Here is a look at the Irish, by position:
Despite the uncertainty surrounding Leffers' return and the
search for a consistent rightside hitter, Notre Dame's biggest
question actually may be on the left side, where the Irish must
replace Harris and Lee. That duo combined for over 19 attack
attempts per game during the 1997 season while the rest of the
team averaged only 20 swings per game. And Harris or Lee led the
team in kills during all but two of the 34 matches a year ago.
Harris departed with 1,577 career kills, 1,023 digs and seven
Irish service ace records-including 239 over her four years. Lee,
meanwhile, is the only player in the Irish career top 10 for
kills, hitting percentage, digs, aces, assists and blocks.
Together, they combined for 3,023 career kills-compared to just
1,705 combined career kills for Notre Dame's 10 returning players
The Harris-Lee void extends beyond just offense, as that tandem
handled roughly 90 percent of the team's passing in 1997.
Brown does not downplay the level of talent that has been lost on
the left side. But she is just as quick to express confidence in
the group of young players who are ready to take their shots at
earning a starting role.
"We certainly have players who are capable of stepping in and
doing the job on the left side. They are up to the challenge,"
Christi Girton ranked third in conference hitting percentage last season.
Girton's planned switch from right to leftside hitter could
temper the loss of Harris and Lee by providing a player with
starting experience (93 games in '97, with starts in the final 24
matches) who has the makings for success on the left side.
"Christi remains a very versatile player and could end up
anywhere on the front row-which she did for much of her freshman
year," said Brown. "But our plans are to try her initially on the
left, where her 6-3 frame and agility could make Christi a real
The Muncie, Ind., native ranked third in the BIG EAST with a .401
conference hitting percentage in 1997 and could play a key role
in the team's passing scheme, due to her strong lower body and
backrow mobility. In the front row, Girton's ability to hit the
ball hard and at a high point-combined with excellent all-around
blocking skills-could make her one of the team's most valuable
Powell (Monrovia, Ind.), the most veteran of the outside hitters,
heads into her third season looking for improved consistency in
the front row. As a solid all-around player and arguably the
team's best passer, Powell's potential value to the team is
Mandi Powell looks for a healthy junior season after an injury-plagued 1997.
"Mandi is a very good all-around player-there isn't an area of
her game we don't feel comfortable with," said Brown. "She did a
great job offensively in the spring and is a very good passer who
can go from pass to attack and hit well. Mandi also is an
excellent blocker and a good server, so there are many ways she
can help-at a position where we are looking for people to step
Health could be a key factor to Powell's season, as discomfort in
her lower back hampered her sophomore campaign. The 5-11 veteran
actually opened '97 as a leftside starter, while Lee was at the
World University Games, but she struggled offensively and played
primarily a backrow role for the remainder of the season.
"Mandi is a strong player who moves and jumps well and is
probably our bet passer because of her technique and ability to
cover a wide area," said Brown. "Most importantly, Mandi had very
good offensive numbers in the spring. If she can do that in the
fall, she is going to find herself on the court."
Jameyson and fellow sophomore Adrienne Shimmel (Mission Viejo,
Calif.) combine with newcomers Bomhack (Waukesha, Wis.) and
Tarpoff (East Lansing, Mich.) to give the Irish plenty of other
options on the left side.
The 6-1 Jameyson will enter 1998 as a preliminary candidate at
middle blocker and, like Girton, has the talent to play anywhere
on the front row. Shimmel, at 5-10, could develop into more of a
frontrow player, after serving as a regular backrow specialist in
'97 (90 games played, 98 digs).
Adrienne Shimmel looks to build on a solid freshman campaign.
"Adrienne is such an important part of our team because of the
emotion she brings to the court," said Brown. "She has great
enthusiasm and just goes out there expecting to get to every
ball. She played an important part as a freshman and we expect
her to play an even greater role this season."
Bomhack is the most heralded of the newcomers, earning Fab 50 and
honorable mention All-America status from Volleyball magazine.
The 6-0 freshman provides another player with experience playing
throughout the front row and should make her presence felt due to
strong net play and an infectious competitiveness.
Tarpoff is a recent addition, after transferring from the U.S.
Air Force Academy. The 6-0 newcomer, who played for the Falcons
in 1995, has two years of eligibility remaining and will grow
into a yet-to-be-determined role with the Irish. Known for solid
all-around skills, Tarpoff actually was recruited by Brown and
the Irish while in high school and could provide a needed lift to
the young squad.
The Irish return two talented starters at middle blocker in
Leffers and Treadwell but the uncertainty over Leffers' return
could place extra reliance on Treadwell while opening up chances
for several younger players.
Mary Leffers was an AVCA All-District first team selection in 1997.
Leffers (Tampa, Fla.) earned first team AVCA All-District honors
in 1997 after posting a .311 season hitting percentage that ranks
fifth in Irish history and using her 6-4 frame to average 1.26
blocks per game. Offensively, she averaged 2.87 kills per game
and was primed for a breakthrough 1998 season prior to the ACL
injury in an April 4 scrimmage at Purdue.
"Mary is gaining her strength back, taking each day as it comes,
and we'll see what her situation is and when she can go 100
percent," said Brown. "We certainly would like her to come back
strong-she has been a key ingredient for us, both blocking and
hitting, the past two years."
Should Leffers return to her all-star form, the Irish may look to
set the imposing middle more often than in past years. During her
first two seasons, Leffers-whose .293 career hitting percentage
ranks behind only Treadwell in Irish history-averaged just 6.1
attack attempts per game while eclipsing 20 kills in just two
"It's pretty safe to say that we won't be setting our outside
hitters as much as last season and that could result in some
bigger kill numbers for players like Mary," said Brown. "She has
the ability to dominate a match and hopefully she will get that
chance this season."
Treadwell (Austin, Texas)-the team's only fourth-year
player-fittingly will captain the 1998 squad, after serving as a
spirited and effective player her first three seasons.
Lindsay Treadwell will serve as captain for the Irish in 1998.
"Lindsay did a great job leading the team in the spring," said
Brown. "She sets a great example, works hard, is committed to
being the best she can be and is not afraid to confront somebody
if it seems like they are not working hard enough or if they have
a little bit of an attitude. And she can do that because she is
so consistent in how she comes in every day and works hard."
Treadwell, a candidate for BIG EAST player of the year and
Academic All-America, owns the best career hitting percentage in
Notre Dame history (.298) and has played in 101 of 102 matches
the past three seasons. And as the team's top all-around player,
the 5-11 senior has the chance to join current Irish assistant
coach Jessica Fiebelkorn-Kerr and former teammate Jenny Birkner
as the only Notre Dame players ever to surpass 900 kills, 900
digs, 300 blocks, 100 aces and 100 assists.
"Throughout her career, Lindsay has been very reliable because
she does so many things well," said Brown.
"She always seems to come up with big kills in tough matches, is
a great blocker, serves very tough and has developed into a
primary passer for us. She also gets the job done when she has to
set the ball and now is becoming a great leader for us. What else
could you ask for?"
Treadwell's 1997 season included her trademark blue-collar
numbers: 34 of 34 matches played, a .300 hitting percentage, 2.25
kills, 2.41 digs and 1.13 blocks per game, and 15 service aces.
Not surprisingly, she continually rose to the occasion in the
bigger matches, hitting 93 points higher in non-conference action
than in the BIG EAST regular season (.314-.221), including a
team-best .290 in 10 matches versus ranked teams. For her career,
Treadwell has hit .305 while averaging 3.28 kills per game in
seven NCAA tournament matches (both higher than her overall
averages of .301 and 1.90).
"Lindsay has answered the call for us so many times in her career
but this season she will be looking to play just as well in the
easier matches. It just requires a little bit of a mental
adjustment to the point where she views every match as a big
one," said Brown.
"Overall, Lindsay will be a huge ingredient to our success
because she is such a fighter and brings a higher level of
intensity to the court. Other middle blockers in the country may
be taller than Lindsay, but you'd be hard-pressed to find many
that work harder than she does. She's due for a great season."
Jameyson (Alvin, Texas) is a leading candidate to start opposite
Treadwell, if Leffers is unavailable when the season opens in
late August. Although she has the versatility to play several
positions, Jameyson is possibly best suited for the middle due to
her 6-1 frame, long arms, jumping ability and quick lateral
Jo Jameyson has the versatility to play several positions for the Irish.
"We've been very pleased with Jo's development, particularly at
the end of the spring. She has come on real strong and is
well-suited to the middle blocker position," said Brown. "Jo gets
up quick and hits behind the setter very well and she has made
pretty good strides on her passing and defense, so she could have
a big season."
Goralski (Missouri City, Texas) brings her strong blocking
ability to the Irish program after joining Bomhack as national
Fab-50 selections. Known for her jumping ability and large hands,
the 6-1 Goralski moves well laterally and excels at penetrating
through the net on her blocking attempts. "Malinda just loves to
block, which is a big reason that she is so good at it," said
Stability and consistency on the right side will be a major
concern for the Irish in 1998. Birkner was a mainstay at opposite
from 1993-96 but the position yielded mixed results in '97, when
Schiebout (Blaine, Minn.) had a strong opening to the season
before fading due to inconsistency and nagging injuries. Girton
stepped in and developed into one of the BIG EAST's top freshmen,
but her season also had its ups and downs.
As the Irish enter 1998, Schiebout and Kreher-the team's only
lefthanders-head the rightside candidates, with Girton and
Jameyson capable of playing on the right but slated to open '98
at other frontrow positions.
The 6-1 Schiebout provides another dimension to an offense that
will be looking to develop new weapons.
Emily Schiebout is one of two lefthanders on the Irish roster.
"Emily's strength is in blocking and attacking, and she has made
good strides in gaining strength and working on her
conditioning," said Brown. "The biggest thing Emily needs to
work on is consistency. She hits the ball very hard and is a
terminating hitter--meaning that she either gets a hard kill or
hits the ball out. She needs to find a little bit more middle
ground and we've worked on developing some different shots for
her. If Emily can stay healthy and consistent, she'll be tough to
beat out on the right side."
While Girton and Jameyson can play opposite the setter if needed,
Kreher (Birmingham, Mich.) could become a major contributor on
the right side. Noted for strong backrow play due to her
technique and consistency, Kreher could help fill the major
passing void. And like many of her teammates, the 6-1 newcomer
has experience playing on the both the right and the left.
Stettin (Burr Ridge, Ill.) rounds out the opposite candidates,
but her status remains uncertain after undergoing back surgery in
early May of '98. The 6-0 Stettin is one of the squad's most
versatile players, also serving as a backup setter, and combines
strong back row play with solid ability at the net.
Setters and Defensive Specialists
Boylan (Lisle, Ill.) returns for her second year looking to show
the benefits of a full Division I season and a summer of training
with the USA national team program. Considered one of the top
young setters in the nation, the 6-1 Boylan could have a banner
sophomore campaign as she looks to improve on last season's
Irish-record .274 team hitting percentage.
Setter Denise Boylan is primed for a banner sophomore season.
"I don't think there's more or less pressure for Denise. There's
always a certain amount of pressure when you're a starter, no
matter what year you are," said Brown. "It's good that Denise has
a year of college experience, a year in our system and has had
the opportunity to gain strength. And the fact that she played
all summer--at a very high level--is certainly a bonus for us."
Boylan's freshman year understandably was filled with high and
low points but she nonetheless played in nearly 92 percent of the
games while directing the most efficient Irish offense in the
program's history. She also displayed her value as an all-around
player, using her 6-1 frame to enhance the Irish blocking scheme
while ranking second on the team with 27 service aces.
"Denise had a good freshman year and we have very high
expectations of her this season, based on what she's capable of
doing," said Brown. "Physically, Denise has become stronger and
has continued to work on varying the offense. Her leadership will
be very critical this season and she should feel in an easier
situation to assert herself in a leadership role."
Boylan's first full year with the Irish also included a redefined
outlook during the offseason.
"In the spring, Denise became a more focused and driven player.
She is working hard to improve personally and has played an
active role to help her teammates to do the things that will help
the team to reach its potential. That's the type of attitude you
look for in great setters," said Brown.
Graham (Austin, Texas), a 5-8 transfer from the University of
Oregon, will serve as Boylan's backup, while Stettin also can run
the offense once she returns from her back surgery
Graham provides a key component for a Notre Dame program that
gambled and lost in 1996, when the Irish roster included just one
setter (then-junior Carey May). Knowing that Boylan already had
verbally committed to the program, the Irish had only the
inexperienced Stettin as a backup at setter in '96. And when May
went down with a preseason injury, the Irish decided to shift Lee
to setter-despite her lack of experience at the position-and Lee
ran the Irish offense for the first half of the campaign,
resulting in the loss of two starters as Notre Dame went without
the offensive firepower of Lee on the left side.
Senior Audra Duda will add stability to the backrow for the Irish.
Further injuries to Harris and middle blocker Jennifer Rouse
compounded the lack of continuity in what was one of the most
challenging seasons of the Brown era.
"We learned our lesson in '96, as far as setters go, and the
presence of Michelle will be very important," said Brown of the
5-8 Graham, who will be reunited at Notre Dame with her former
prep teammate Treadwell. "She played in 21 matches last season
and has the benefit of playing volleyball at a high level, in the
Pac-10, so we see Michelle as a crucial piece to the puzzle this
While players such as Powell and Shimmel will be available as
either starters or backrow specialists, one of the team's most
veteran backrow players is senior Audra Duda (Woodland Hills,
"As in the past, Audra will be a key for us in the back row,"
said Brown of the player who joined the program as a walk-on in
"Audra is an excellent server who not only serves tough but can
put it in any area of the court. She also has provided good
leadership and has very good insight that helps the team be more
cohesive and have better communication."