Feb. 2, 2000
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Notre Dame head volleyball coach Debbie Brown announced the signing Wednesday of middle blocker Kim Fletcher (St. Louis, Mo.), outside hitter Jessica Kinder (Fresno, Calif.), setter Kristen Kinder (Fresno, Calif.) and middle blocker Katherine Neff (St. Louis, Mo.) to Notre Dame’s class of 2004.
“I think it’s a really strong and balanced class,” Brown said. “They all have the ability to compete right away and will definitely raise the level of competition for us in the gym.
“If they’re not starting, then they will be pushing for significant playing time and either they’re going to be getting better, or the players that they’re pushing will be getting better.”
Fletcher is a two-time USA Volleyball All-American, earning all-tournament honors last year at the junior national championships after leading her squad, Team St. Louis, to the silver-division championship.
“Kim is a solid all-around player, a good passer and defensive player and hits the slide extremely well,” Brown says.
The 6-0 senior at Nerinx Hall High School in Webster Groves, Mo., Fletcher earned all-metro and all-district honors three times in her career.
“It’s mostly because of the people – the players and the coaches,” Fletcher said about her decision to sign with Notre Dame. “I think I am going to learn a lot from them.”
Jessica and Kristen Kinder both earned All-America honors from Student Sports Magazine in 1999, and were selected as USA Volleyball All-Americans after leading their club team, the Fresno Red, to a fifth-place finish in the girls 18 open division at the 1999 junior national championships. The sisters and class valedictorians also captained Bullard High School to a No. 11 national ranking in 1999, and were honored the same year as the Fresno Bee All-Valley Co-Players of the Year.
Individually, Jessica Kinder, who is 5-10, was a four-time all league selection and two-time North Yosemite League player of the year. She also was an alternate for this year’s USA Volleyball Youth National Team.
“Jessica hits the ball as hard as anyone in this year’s national recruiting class,” Brown said. “She’s very strong, hits a heavy ball and has excellent ball handling skills.”
Kristen Kinder, who is 5-9, was a three-time all-league performer, who recently earned Volleyball Magazine third-team All-American honors.
“Kristen is a very dynamic player who will give us depth at the setting position,” Brown said. “She’s a very good left-handed setter, who attacks the second ball very well, and has the ability to run anything down and get her hands on the ball.” Jessica and Kristen Kinder, both members of the All-Stater Sports Class of 2000 Super 75 volleyball list, will be the second set of sisters to play volleyball for the Irish, following Kathleen (1984-86) and Maureen (1980-82) Morin of Mishawaka, Ind., who played for the Irish during the early- and mid-80s.
Neff, Fletcher’s club teammate this season on the St. Louis Elite, is a 6-4 middle blocker from Cor Jesu Academy, who earned all-state honors her junior and senior seasons. She also owns the Missouri state record for total games played in a career (317) and is tied for the state record in career matches played with 144.
“Katie is a very efficient hitter,” Brown said. “She hits the ball at a very high point and is a very good blocker who takes up a lot of court. She’s tall, jumps well and has a good arm swing to hit over the block.”
Neff was a three-time all district and two-time all conference, all-region and all-metro selections at Cor Jesu, in addition to being named to the academic all-state team all four seasons. A Street & Smith Basketball Honorable Mention All-American as a junior, Neff owns 10 school volleyball records.
“It’s always been my dream to come to Notre Dame, and I’m really looking forward to it,” Neff said. “They have a great balance between athletics and academics and it was somewhere I always wanted to go.”
The Notre Dame volleyball team finished their 1999 campaign with a 20-9 overall record, claiming its eighth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance and went undefeated in winning its fourth BIG EAST regular season title in five years.