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Volleyball Begins 2001 Slate With Shamrock Invitational This Weekend

Aug. 29, 2001

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2001 Shamrock Invitational

Florida Atlantic vs. Idaho, Friday, Aug. 31, 4:30 p.m.

#20 Notre Dame vs. Southwest Texas, Friday, Aug. 31, 7 p.m.

Southwest Texas vs. Idaho, Saturday, Sept. 1, 10 a.m.

#20 Notre Dame vs. Florida Atlantic, Saturday, Sept. 1, 12:30 p.m.

Florida Atlantic vs. Southwest Texas, Saturday, Sept. 1, 4:30 p.m.

#20 Notre Dame vs. Idaho, Saturday, Sept. 1, 7 p.m.

Tournament notes:

The Shamrock Invitational will be taking place for the fifth straight year and seventh time overall at the Joyce Center … an early-season tradition for the Irish, 16 teams have visited Notre Dame for the event … five ranked teams, BYU (#13, ’00), New Mexico (#24, ’93), Wisconsin (#18, ’97), Colorado (#12, ’98) and Pacific (#6, ’99) have participated in the Shamrock Invitational … Notre Dame won the tournament last season with a five-game come-from-behind victory over BYU … Notre Dame’s Denise Boylan was named the tournament MVP … Notre Dame is 17-3 in the Shamrock all-time, the losses coming in three different tournaments to ranked opponents: Pacific (3-0) in ’99, Colorado (3-0) in ’98 and Wisconsin (3-1) in ’97 … Louisville is the only team to visit the Joyce Center for the Shamrock twice, losing to the Irish 3-0 last season and 3-1 in 1997.

Preview of the tournament field:

Southwest Texas, picked to finish fourth in the Southland Conference this season, returns preseason all-conference selections Natalie Spann and Tiffany Weidner. The Bobcats won the Southland Conference title in 2000.

Florida Atlantic has six new faces on the team this season with four incoming freshman and two transfers. Marja Valkeavuori hails from Riihimaki, Finland and brings Finnish National Team experience to the Owl offense. Jeana Boyle, another new face at Florida Atlantic, transferred from Boston College. Picked third in the preseason Atlantic Sun Conference poll, the Owls are out to improve on their fourth place league finish in 2000.

The Idaho Vandals compete in the Big West Conference, one of the top volleyball leagues in the nation and are picked to finish eighth in the field this season. Idaho returns four starters from last season’s 16-13 team that was picked to finish eighth in the conference, but earned sixth place in the final rankings. The Vandals have an unusual blend of experience and youth in 2001. They return four seniors with loads of past playing time and four starters from last year’s squad, but still should be very young. Setter Jenny Neville and outside hitter Heather Kniss, both seniors, are four-year starters at their positions.

Irish in the top 25 once again:

Notre Dame enters the 2001 season ranked 20th in the USA Today/AVCA Preseason Top 25, marking the second straight season the Irish have been in the preseason ranking and the 15th-straight poll the team has appeared in. Notre Dame was in the `also receiving votes’ category in the preseason last year and moved into the top 25 with a championship sweep of the Shamrock Invitational last year. The Irish stayed in the ranking for the rest of the season, peaking at #19 on Nov. 20. The highest Notre Dame has ever been ranked in the poll is seventh (10-16-95) and the highest final ranking the team enjoyed was 12th in 1994.

Collegiate volleyball implements three new rules: The National Association for Girls and Women in Sports (NAGWS), the official rules-making body for women’s collegiate volleyball, has announced three modifications that will directly affect the way the game is played in 2001.

The NAGWS has introduced rally scoring and each play will result in a point being scored. Each match will be a best-of-five with games one through four being played to 30 points. The fifth and deciding game (if necessary) will be to 15 points. All games need to be won by two points.

Another rule change will affect the serve. First, players will not be allowed a second toss for service and the let serve will be allowed. Should a served ball touch the net, it will be a legal, live ball as long as it continues its path to the opponents court.

The third rule change is optional and can be implemented by the coaches before the match. Referred to as `international pursuit’, the rule allows for a player to retrieve a ball (on second contact) that has crossed the plane of the net to the opponents free space, provided that player does not touch the opponents court and send the ball back to their court, over or outside the antennas, for an opportunity for the third contact.

Coaching change:

Robin Davis, most recently an assistant at Northern Arizona, has joined the Irish staff as an assistant. Davis replaces Lindsay Rosenthal and will help the Irish in the day-to-day business of the program, recruiting and on-court teaching.

Davis also has head coaching experience at Biola (Calif.) University. He coached 10 years at Biola, then moved on to Northern Arizona, helping them qualify for the NCAA Tournament in 1999 and 2000 while capturing the Big Sky Conference Co-Championship in 2000. Top hitters return to 2001 lineup: The 2001 Irish offense will feature some of the top percentage hitters of all time in its starting lineup. Senior opposite Kristy Kreher is first on the all-time list for career hitting percentage (.321) while senior middle blocker Malinda Goralski posted a .380 hitting percentage last season to raise her career average to .347 (Goralski has yet to log enough attempts to qualify for the all-time list). Sophomore MB Kim Fletcher also posted a .272 hitting percentage as a rookie last season.

Senior OH Marcie Bomhack has displayed the ability to explode for streaks of effective hitting, scoring 16 kills on .483 hitting vs. North Carolina and 14 kills on .700 hitting vs. Providence in 2000.

Irish forced to adjust from the comforts of home to life on the road:

Notre Dame played 19 matches in the friendly confines of the Joyce Center last season. The Irish had 17 regular-season home matches scheduled and won both matches at the 2000 BIG EAST Volleyball Championship, which was held on campus.

The 2001 schedule calls for at least 16 road matches, a number that could increase if the Irish qualify for the BIG EAST Championship. A key stretch of the Irish schedule will be six consecutive road matches from Oct. 16 through Nov. 4.

Tremendous Tournament:

Notre Dame will compete in one of the top volleyball tournaments in the nation in Lincoln, Neb., Sept. 7-9. Defending National Champion Nebraska, perennial top-10 power UCLA and West Coast Conference juggernaut Pepperdine will join the Irish in the US Bank/Arby’s Tournament in Lincoln. The Irish faced both Nebraska and UCLA in the adidas Invitational last season, dropping the matches to each opponent in three games. Notre Dame and Pepperdine will be meeting for the first time.

Welcome to the BIG EAST:

In addition to facing Pepperdine for the first time ever at the US Bank/Arby’s Tournament in Lincoln, Neb., Sept. 9, Notre Dame will face Virginia Tech for the first time ever and the first time as a BIG EAST Conference opponent on Sept. 28.

Virginia Tech enters the conference for volleyball competition for the first time in 2001. The Hokies competed as independents and compiled a 13-16 record.

Freshman poised to contribute:

Even as the Irish welcome back 10 monogram winners to the 2001 roster, three talented freshman have joined the team this season. Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind.) has made a push for playing time after posting a 10-6 jump-reach in a preseason test and displaying solid offensive and defensive skills. OH Leah Nedderman (Grapevine, Texas) and MB Kelly Corbett (Mountain View, Calif.) have both impressed the Irish coaching staff in the preseason and are poised to see significant playing time off the bench.

Strong schedule:

Irish head coach Debbie Brown, who led the team to two victories over highly ranked opponents in 2000 (3-2 come-from-behind victory over #15 BYU and a 3-1 win over #22 Loyola Marymount), has scheduled a number of highly-rated teams this season. Notre Dame will face four preseason top 25 teams, highlighted by a match at #1 Nebraska on Sept. 8.

Promotions over the weekend:

The University of Notre Dame athletic promotions office will be sponsoring “Rafflemania” during the Shamrock Invitational this weekend. All fans that wear Irish colors (blue, gold or green) will get a raffle ticket to win various door prizes. Two grand prize drawings will be held during the Notre Dame vs. Idaho match at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 1, and the winner of the top prize will receive two tickets to the Notre Dame vs. Nebraska football game in Lincoln, Neb., on Sept. 8. The second grand prize is two tickets to the Notre Dame vs. Michigan State home football game on Sept. 22.

There also will be a serving contest during each Notre Dame match over the weekend with a chance to win 10,000 dollars.