July 21, 2015
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – With the 2015 season just six weeks away, national championship winning head coach Jim McLaughlin has rounded out his first staff as leader of the University of Notre Dame volleyball program. Former American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-American and 2015 Xavier graduate Aubree Smith joins the program as its volunteer assistant coach, while Kevin Prendergast returns for his second season as operations specialist.
The two additions will join McLaughlin, associate head coach Mike Johnson and assistant coach Katie Wilson in making up a talented staff that looks to revitalize a program that went a combined 19-41 during its first two seasons in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Smith, a May graduate from Xavier University with a degree in entrepreneurial studies, joins the Irish after four outstanding seasons with the Musketeers under the direction of Johnson, who averaged more than 20 wins a year during five seasons as the head coach of the Musketeers.
“When you coach a group of players it’s obvious that some only pay attention to their facet of the game,” said Johnson. But the special ones pay attention to every facet because they want to know how to be the best at every phase. Aubree did the latter. She was someone who paid attention to everything that was being taught to all positions. She was a great leader and player. She wanted to know what each and every teammate was doing on the court and towards the end it was like having a second coach on the court.”
A two-time AVCA honorable mention All-American (2013-14) as a setter with the Musketeers, Smith was a first team all-BIG EAST selection as a junior and senior after earning rookie of the year accolades in the Atlantic 10 in 2011 and second team all-conference honors in the league in 2012.
Smith is only the second player in Xavier volleyball history to earn All-America honors twice in a career. She finished her career with 126 starts and 127 matches played over four years, totaling 4,757 assists (10.19 per set), 610 kills, 92 service aces, 1,093 digs and 318 total blocks for 883.0 points. She attacked at a .311 clip.
A proven leader, Smith served as captain during her final campaign.
In the classroom, she earned Dean’s List honors from the William’s College of Business.
Smith will assist with the development of the setters in addition to other roles with the Notre Dame program.
“I heard about Aubree through Mike (Johnson), and my philosophy in hiring is to get really good people that work hard and will learn the things they need to learn to help us win at a high level,” said McLaughlin. “After Mike told me she had a good presence, was a good person and a good player, I spent a day with her and I really liked her. She’s easy to listen to, she communicates well and she has a good process with people. She’ll grab onto what we are trying to do here at Notre Dame really fast. I really believe she is an up-and-coming head coach, but she’ll also help this program along the way.”
Prendergast returns for a second year with the Irish after joining the program in March 2014 under long-time head coach Debbie Brown.
A December 2013 Xavier graduate, Prendergast worked under Johnson as the program’s technical advisor before graduating and coming to Notre Dame.
With the Irish, Prendergast assists the program with practices, matches and travel in addition to other daily responsibilities. He also uses the computer program Data Volley to scout opponents by creating detailed statistical reports.
He learned Data Volley from Nate Ngo, the current technical advisor for the United State’s Men’s Volleyball National Team.
“I had a guy in mind (for operations specialist) when I came here, but I talked to Mike (Johnson) and he said that Kevin works really hard and was a really good guy. By the end of the first day that I met Kevin, I knew that I would hire him. He keeps getting better and better and I’m really impressed with him.
“When you do something great (as a program) it’s about a number of people doing an excellent job with great energy. You need those people. A lot of Kevin’s stuff is behind the scenes, but it’s as important as anything we do.”
The Irish kick off their first season under McLaughlin in Murfreesboro, Tennessee at the Blue Raider Bash hosted by Middle Tennessee State. There they will play Bowling Green (Aug. 29 – 11 a.m. ET), Cleveland State (Aug. 29 – 4 p.m. ET) and Middle Tennessee State (Aug. 30 – 3 p.m. ET).
For more information on Notre Dame volleyball, follow the program on Facebook (/NDVolleyball), Twitter (@NDVolleyball) and Instagram (@NDVBall).
–Russell Dorn, Assistant Athletics Communications Director