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Notre Dame Volleyball Season Preview

Aug. 21, 2017

By Jane Horvat

Notre Dame, Ind. — The Notre Dame volleyball team begins its season under head coach Jim McLaughlin at the Golden Dome Invitational. The tournament will take place at the Compton Family Ice Arena on August 25 and 26 and will be streamed live on the ACC Network Extra/WatchESPN.

After finishing the 2016-17 season with a winning record (22-10) for the first time in three years, the Irish are looking to build upon last season’s success as they open the season August 25-26 at the Golden Dome Invitational. Last season the Irish went undefeated to win the invitational without dropping a single set to an opponent. This year’s tournament will be played at the Compton Family Ice Arena, a first for Notre Dame Volleyball, where the Irish will compete against Valparaiso, New Mexico State, and Rhode Island.

The Irish boast three more tournaments on the front end of their schedule before entering Atlantic Coast Conference play. The team will travel to Ohio for the BGSU/Toledo Invitational, and Conway, South Carolina, for the Coastal Carolina Classic before returning home to Purcell Pavilion for the Shamrock Invitational.

After being ranked fourth in the ACC preseason poll and placing senior middle blocker Sam Fry and senior setter Caroline Holt on the Preseason All-ACC Team, the Irish will be working to make a statement this season.

Coach McLaughlin discussed his goals for the year and the reputation he wants the team to earn.

“I think we have to develop the identity of being a team that’s really tough and hard to compete against,” McLaughlin said. “If someone plays against us I hope every team just says ‘That was a nightmare. It’s hard to play against Notre Dame.'”

With a team that returns 14 players from last season’s roster, including six seniors, the Irish are set up to do just that. A veteran roster and a strong incoming freshman class give Notre Dame the opportunity to take last season’s improvements and turn them into continued success.

“I’m always worried about young people because when you have a little bit of success — and we had a little — you can take things for granted,” he said. “I’m telling them that I hope we don’t do that, and we just keep working everyday, getting better in the process and getting more wins. Our goal here is to win the national championship. We don’t need to talk about that. That’s Notre Dame. That’s not me. That’s this place. We have to talk about our habits, and whether or not those habits improving in everything we do on or off the court.”

The Irish have 20 ACC matches on the 2017 slate in which they can build upon last year’s breakthrough season. With the leadership from the returning players, Notre Dame has a strong foundation heading into conference play.

“History shows us that when you have sound leadership, things are going to go better, and you have a better opportunity in front of you because of that leadership,” McLaughlin said. “Right now if I have any comfort, it’s in those kids that can lead this team,”

The Irish have one such leader in Fry, who was invited to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, this past spring to try out for the United States National Team. Fry is a two-time second team All-ACC selection who served as a team captain in 2016-17. Fry finished her junior season with 255 kills, 37 service aces and 102 total blocks.

McLaughlin is ready for Fry to reprise her role as a leader on this year’s team.

“Sam is unique. She almost does everything right. She’s learning like everybody but she figures things out,” McLaughlin said. “The kid has a unique drive; I want her to drive harder this year. She has a unique commitment level; I want her to commit harder this year, within reason. I don’t want her to be crazy. I want her to lead this year, but she has to keep getting better first, take care of her job, take care of the things she’s doing but at a higher level.”

With such an experienced roster, McLaughlin is training his team so that many leaders have the opportunity to step into more prominent roles. After a breakout 2016 season, he is looking for his team to exhibit confidence in their abilities and in the team as a whole.

“I’m looking for them to develop, become more effective, become more efficient, more confident. I think leaders develop confidence,” McLaughlin said. “Confidence to me is not winning or losing. Confidence is knowing what you need to do and through sound, mindful preparation, knowing, ‘We’re going to get there. I’m going to do this.’ Confidence.”

The Irish have their first chance to display this season’s confidence on Friday, Aug. 25 when they open the Golden Dome Invitational against Valparaiso at 7:00 p.m. ET.

— ND —

Jane Horvat is a student intern for Fighting Irish Media. In addition to working with Ice Hockey, Volleyball and Football, she contributes to the writing team and is an English and Romance Languages major. A member of the Glynn Family Honors Program, Horvat writes for the online art database See Art Differently and hails from Rockford, Illinois.