Nov. 21, 2007
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Notre Dame head volleyball coach Debbie Brown recently announced the signing of four incoming freshmen to National Letters-of-Intent. The tandem of Megan Barnicle, Kristen Dealy, Beth Wildermuth, and Francesca "Frenchy" Silva will enroll in school next fall and have four years of eligibility in a Fighting Irish uniform.
"The class, as a whole, is really good," said Brown. "They definitely have the type of court personalities that we like to have here at Notre Dame. They all love playing the game. They play with a lot of energy and a lot of emotion, and each brings with them specific skills that will definitely help this program."
Barnicle is the latest product from the Chicago-area based club team Sports Performance, joining current sophomore Megan Fesl (Arlington Heights, Ill./John Hersey) and senior Adrianna Stasiuk (Park Ridge, Ill./Maine South) as former players for the travel squad.
"Megan will be a middle blocker for us, and I think that she's similar in ability to Kellie (Sciacca) in the fact that she's a very offensive middle," said Brown. "She's played on a tremendously talented club team for the last couple years, and that experience will certainly add to the depth and competition of our middle blocking crew."
The six-footer ranked 48th among the annual Senior Aces list produced by PrepVolleyball.com.
"Megan seems to hang glide in the air while both hitting and blocking," said Barnicle's high school coach, Peg Kopec. "She is a real laid-back player with command of all her quick shots, but possesses the finesse to lay down the soft tips. She jumps and blocks with such ease. It's not that she isn't playing hard, but her athleticism makes it seem effortless. It seems that she can literally float like a butterfly."
Kopec and Barnicle were part of a St. Francis (Wheaton, Ill.) prep squad that recently finished second in Illinois' 2007 Class AAA state tournament to cap off the season with a 38-4 record. St. Francis notched the Class AA state crown in 2006 after a 42-2 campaign. Heading into that championship year, the team was the sixth-ranked team in the PrepVolleyball.com preseason poll, which came on the heels of a 37-2 mark and a No. 14 national ranking in 2005. Those two losses in 2005 were to Mira Costa - the nation's second-ranked team - and Naperville Central, who would eventually win the Illinois state title that season after downing St. Francis in the sectional finals. In four years with the Spartans, Barnicle had a hand in compiling an overall record of 149-17 (.898).
With her club team, Barnicle won a national championship at the 2007 Junior Olympics and captured that same title as a sixteen-year-old.
"Megan is such a hard worker and a great teammate," said Steve Bailey of Sports Performance. "She works well with others, and will do anything to win. She's very consistent with her play, and is simply one of those hard working kids that any coach would love to have on their team."
Two years ago, Dealy made the Junior Olympic all-tournament team after her squad finished fifth in the National division. 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 California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) placed her on its Division I first-team in 2006. The Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table recognized Dealy as its Athlete of the Week (Oct. 2, 2006) after she was an all-tournament selection at the Archbishop Mitty Tournament in San Jose, leading her Santa Barbara High School (Santa Barbara, Calif.) squad to its first victory over rival San Marcos in more than three years with 13 kills during the Dons' three-game sweep. Dealy and Santa Barbara fell to Marymount in that season's Southern Section finals and completed the year with a 21-9 record. Despite the loss, it was the team's first appearance in a Division 1-A sectional match since the Dons won California's Division II-AA championship in 2000.
Dealy's squad bounced back to start the 2007 season by pummeling Marymount, who was then the top-ranked team in Division 1-A, in the semis of the Archbishop Mitty Tournament before sweeping through Harvard-Westlake (25-20, 25-13, 25-19) in the championship match on "one of the greatest days ever for Santa Barbara girls' volleyball," according to Santa Barbara head coach John Gannon. Dealy exploded for 44 kills over the span of the tournament's final two matches. Harvard-Westlake is now the sixth-ranked team in the nation.
The pair of wins came after the Dons had already defeated the 2006 Division 1-AA CIF champion, Redondo Union, earlier in the season by mounting a five-game comeback on the road.
Santa Barbara is currently the No. 15 team in the nation and the 8th-best team in California, according to MaxPreps.com. The Dons spent most of the season as the top-ranked team in the CIF's Division 1-A, and rode a sixteen-match winning streak into the postseason until falling to Flintridge Sacred Heart in the CIF playoffs (Dealy led the Dons with 15 kills in the match). Dealy was a pivotal cog in helping the team post a 26-6 overall record with a flawless 8-0 mark against foes in the Channel League.
"Kristen is a really good all-around player," Brown stated. "She's a good passer and a good defensive player. She can hit with a lot of power, and hits well out of the back row. I love her competitive court demeanor. She just plays really hard all the time."
Similar to Dealy, Wildermuth also claimed a spot on the all-tournament team during at the 2006 Junior Olympics after competing in the 16-Open division.
That same year Volleyball Magazine chose her as a second-team All-American player after Santa Margarita High School (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.) picked up top honors in the Trinity League. Wildermuth soon added another honor by finding her way onto the CIF Division I second team. It was during that season that Santa Margarita fought its way to the top of the Orange County rankings and played themselves into the CIF Division I semifinals and the Southern California Regional finals.
The Orange County Register placed her on the newspaper's first team in 2006, as she was the primary setter that season for Dicey McGraw, who is now an outside hitter at UCLA.
In 2005, she led the Eagles to a 34-4 mark and an appearance in the Southern California Division III championship match.
PrepVolleyball.com's 30th best recruit coming out of high school this year guided the Eagles to a 20-9 finish while ranking among the top 15 teams in the state throughout the season. In fact, Wildermuth came out on top of a season-opening battle with Dealy and her Santa Barbara squad to open the season on Sept. 7.
"Beth is a very, very strong setter with loads of potential," said Brown. "She plays similar to Jamel (Nicholas) and Ashley (Tarutis), as she's not very tall but is extremely mobile around the floor with a strong jump set. It's so important in the (setter) position to be a strong leader, and she has exhibited that leadership. She definitely knows how to run the show, keep the team focused, and communicate with her hitters and passers. In addition to all of that, she just has really good location on her sets."
Wildermuth plays for the same travel program, Laguna Beach Volleyball Club, as future classmate Silva.
One person that can certainly attest to the attributes and potential of Wildermuth and Silva is Michael Soylular, who has worked with both individuals as the head coach and director of the Laguna Beach Volleyball Club. Soylular has been actively involved with the development of both players since they started playing the sport at a competitive level.
"With Beth and Frenchy, you're talking about two relatively undersized players that make up for that lack of size with such an amazing work ethic," said Soylular. "Both have such a tremendous desire to excel. They're team players, extremely coachable, and have an invaluable knowledge of the game. Playing volleyball in general, and more specifically having the opportunity to play at Notre Dame, is something that each is passionate about. They've been winners on the beach, indoors, with club and high school teams - you name it, and they've done it.
"What makes them great is that they make the players around them so much better. Their play is contagious. Some programs get great students. Some get great athletes. Some get players with great personalities. Notre Dame is getting two student-athletes that fall under each of those categories."
At 5-foot-4, Silva can certainly pack quite the punch with her frame. She boasts a powerful jump serve and has shown brilliant flashes of speed and athleticism both on the court as a libero and on the track as a sprinter. In fact, she helped set three school records in relay events as a freshman - and proceeded to break two of those marks as a sophomore - then cracked the top 4x100 relay time during her junior season. Her 4x100 relay tandem was seventh in the CIF finals after racking an eighth-place finish in 2006.
Since 2005, her club team has only suffered three losses while posting 49 wins and a trio of top 10 finishes at the Junior Olympics (most recently, the squad was third in the 2007 edition of the national event). The team swept through the competition to net first place in the Southern California Volleyball Association tournament after her sophomore season.
Silva was invited to the USA A2 High Performance volleyball camp in Colorado Springs, Colo., during her first two prep seasons. After training with the program in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., as a sophomore, she was named the Best Passer at the conclusion of the championship tournament. Her performance then prompted an invitation to train at the USA Holiday Volleyball Camp in Austin, Texas, as she was also extended that opportunity one season later.
This past season, Silva has averaged 5.9 digs/game, which includes a trio of 30+ dig efforts to close the 2007 season. She scooped a season-high 37 shots in the Dana Hills High School (Dana Point, Calif.) season finale against Newport Harbor. For those recent efforts, The Orange County Register bestowed upon her its Athlete of the Week award after she posted 106 digs in the first three rounds of the CIF Division I-AA playoffs. Silva totaled 346 digs over the course of the 2007 season.
"I will miss Frenchy because her defense is the best around and she is such a leader," said Lael Fresenius, head coach at Dana Hills.
But Brown and the Irish will certainly welcome what Silva will brings to the Notre Dame table.
"Frenchy is really energetic and plays with a lot of emotion," shared Brown. "She's just an outstanding defensive player. She covers a lot of the court, as she's extremely fast, dynamic, and powerful. She'll be able to come in and immediately help us defensively. On and off the court, she's always focused and is one hundred percent into the match."
She is daughter of Michael and Gina Silva of Laguna Niguel, Calif. Her father played football at Westminster College (Pa.). Silva has been a staple on Dana Hills honor roll throughout her high school career.