June 29, 2000
As the Notre Dame volleyball program enters its 20th year of varsity status at Notre Dame, head coach Debbie Brown begins her 10th year at the helm of the Irish. She has developed the program into a perennial power in the BIG EAST and a force to be reckoned with throughout the Midwest.
The 2000 Notre Dame volleyball team will returns 10 monogram winners and will be gunning for its ninth straight NCAA tournament berth. The Irish finished 20-9 in 1999, the eighth time a Debbie Brown-coached team has reached the 20-win plateau. Her team will once again embrace the challenge to reach that goal in 2000, facing one of the most difficult schedules in the country.
“The most exciting thing about this season is the schedule,” Brown said of the 30-game slate for 2000. “We have some great teams to play and the best home schedule we have ever had.”
Perennial collegiate volleyball powers Nebraska, UCLA, BYU and Clemson will visit the Joyce Center early in the season. Colorado State and Wyoming also visit for the Golden Dome Invitational, as well as North Carolina in November and a Thanksgiving weekend trip to USC.
“We are excited to be playing some of the top teams in the country,” Brown said. “It is going to be challenging, but that is something we want.”
Brown, along with assistant coach Steve Hendricks, will welcome former player Lindsay Rosenthal to the staff in 2000. Rosenthal, known as Lindsay Treadwell in her playing days with the Irish, ranks in the top 10 in 11 career categories in the Irish record book and was also an all-academic and all-BIG EAST selection from 1995-98.
“Lindsay brings a lot of enthusiasm to the bench,” Brown said. “Similar to Jessica (Fiebelkorn-Kerr, who was on the Irish staff in 1999), Lindsay played at Notre Dame and knows what each of the players are going through. While recruiting, she can point out both the good and bad of playing here and be totally honest with the players.”
Brown and her staff are looking to develop a killer instinct on the team this season.
“We need to learn how to finish teams off,” Brown said. “When we get the lead, we have to put teams away. That is the main skill I want to develop with the team this year.”
The Irish lost 1999 BIG EAST Player of the Year Mary Leffers, Emily Schiebout, and Lauren Stettin to graduation. But, they have recruited four strong freshman that Brown expects to have an immediate impact. The Irish also feature a team with more depth at every position in 2000.
“The freshman coming in are going to be competitive and we are going to be a little deeper at each position,” Brown said. “Our practices are going to be more intense. There will be opportunities for a lot of people to play and I think that will help team morale. They can push each other and earn an opportunity to play.” Here is a look at the 2000 Notre Dame volleyball team by position:
Three-year starting senior Christi Girton is the top returning player at outside hitter. Girton led the team in kills per game (3.83) and digs per game (2.31) in 1999, and will carry a large portion of the offensive load in 2000.
“The thing about Christi is she is a real versatile player,” Brown said. “She receives the ball well, handles most of our passing load and is strong at the net. She is a great hitter and blocker who has worked on her shots and become a much smarter hitter.”
Girton ranks 10th in Notre Dame career hitting with a .254 average. She led the team in kills in 12 of 29 matches in 1999 while achieving seven double-doubles, including six in her last 12 matches.
Junior Marcie Bomhack started 27 of 29 matches in 1999 and provides Brown the opportunity to play at either outside hitter or opposite. Bomhack has averaged 2.91 kills per game and 2.31 digs per game in her career.
“Marcie’s strengths are at the net,” Brown said. “She is a very good hitter and one of our better blockers. The area she has improved most in is passing. She has become a very consistent passer and that will be a key for us as well.”
Senior Adrienne Shimmel, a defensive specialist throughout her time at Notre Dame, will also get some time at outside hitter in 2000.
“Adrienne has continued to improve her hitting,” Brown said. “She is very aggressive and is a lot different then our other outside hitters. She hits well off the block and that will be a little different for us from that position.”
Brown also expects freshman Jessica Kinder to push for playing time at outside hitter. Kinder was a USA Volleyball All-American in 1999 while leading her club team, the Fresno Red, to a fifth place finish at the 1999 junior national championships. Jessica was also a four-time all league selection and two-time North Yosemite League player of the year, as well as an alternate for this year’s USA Volleyball Youth National Team.
“Jessica brings a couple of things to the team,” Brown said. “She hits the ball very hard. She has a strong upper body and can hit a very hard ball. She is one of the most competitive people on the team. Her court demeanor and nature is very good. She is also working on a jump-serve that I think can be very effective.”
Junior Kristy Kreher, a second team all-BIG EAST selection in 1999, returns at opposite. Kreher jumped to the top of the Irish record books in 1999, ranking second in career hitting percentage at .294 (444-145-1016). A consistent offensive threat, Kreher will combine with outside hitter Christi Girton to handle the scoring for the Irish.
“Kristy is a very dynamic hitter,” Brown said. “She is very quick and can hit effectively from the back row, as well as at the net. She gives us the opportunity to produce offense from the back row and that is something we have not had before.”
Kreher carried a .377 hitting mark in BIG EAST play in 1999, which was third best in the twelve team conference. Brown has mentioned that Kreher might also see some time at outside hitter to give the Irish a series of different looks.
“Kreher, Bomhack and Girton are all interchangeable,” Brown said of her top scoring threats. “Kristy can play the outside for us. A lot of teams are not accustomed to a left-handed outside hitter like Kristy and she gives us the opportunity to give that look.”
Senior Jo Jameyson will also see some time at opposite in 2000.
“Jo is a good blocker and hits well behind the setter,” Brown said. “She has a good all around game from the opposite position.”
The Irish will feature four middle blockers on the 2000 roster. Senior Jo Jameyson, junior Malinda Goralski, and freshmen Katherine Neff and Kim Fletcher will all see time in the middle.
Jameyson returns from an injury that hampered her much of the 1999 season and kept her out of the NCAA tournament games last year. She has averaged 1.87 kills, 1.75 digs, and 0.81 blocks per game over her career.
“The key is to keep Jo healthy,” Brown said. “When healthy she is very difficult to stop. She has great lateral speed in the middle which enables her to close the blocks on both sides. I expect her to do a lot for us in blocking. She also has the ability to play the back row.”
Goralski presents one of the best blocking jumps on the roster for the Irish.
“Malinda is a great blocker and has one of the best standing jumps on the team,” Brown said. “She has made tremendous strides in her hitting and has really worked on closing shots and becoming a smarter player.”
Katherine Neff and Kim Fletcher will provide depth at the middle in 2000. Neff will be one of the tallest players in Irish history at 6-4. Both Neff and Fletcher might also see time at opposite.
“It is conceivable that Kim Fletcher or Katherine Neff could play some opposite,” Brown said. “We are looking at them as primarily middle blockers, but Katherine could be a very dominant blocker from the opposite. She does a good job with penetration and is tall and long, which could help us at both middle and opposite. Jo, Malinda, Katherine and Kim give us four very strong middles. “
Fletcher is a two-time USA Volleyball All-American who earned all-tournament honors last year at the junior national championships after leading her squad, Team St. Louis, to the silver-division championship. Neff, Fletcher’s club teammate this season on the St. Louis Elite, 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.
“I think it’s a really strong and balanced class (of incoming freshman),” Brown said. “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.”
The Irish will feature three players at the setter position. Senior Michelle Graham and freshman Kristen Kinder will see some action at setter, but senior captain Denise Boylan has a strong hold on the starting assignment. Boylan ranks second in career assists (3291) and assist average (11.84) on the Irish charts and was a first team all-BIG EAST selection in 1999.
“Denise’s set location is the best on the team,” Brown said. “She is an excellent server, a very good blocker, and her defense is improving. She has become very efficient at running both the opposite and the middle.”
Boylan has developed into the main leader both on and off the court for the Irish. She trained with the USA Volleyball program in the summer of `98 and was the only player on the U.S. Youth National team every year from 1994-96. She also set the Irish to a .280 hitting percentage in 1999, which ranked 15th best nationally and is the top mark in Irish volleyball history.
“Over the last year she has become a smarter setter by having a plan, then following through and executing it. We look to Denise to play a major role in our success this season.”
Graham, who stepped in two years ago when Boylan was out with an injury, and Kinder, will provide the Irish with an advantageous practice environment.
Kinder received All-American honors from Student Sports Magazine in 1999 and was selected as a USA Volleyball All-American after leading her club team, the Fresno Red, to a fifth-place finish in the girls 18 open division at the 1999 junior national championships.
“Kristen is 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,” Brown said. “Having three solid setters allows us to scrimmage two at setter, but also work the other out as a defensive specialist,” Brown said. “They can also push each other to get better every day and that can make our setting position very strong.”
One of the deepest positions on the team, the Irish have a wealth of experience in the back row in 2000.
“We have several defensive specialists that have all done a great job,” Brown said. “We have five pretty solid back row players this season.”
Sophomore Keara Coughlin started all 29 matches in 1999 and has developed into an important floor leader of the Irish.
“Keara has really developed her court communication and has become quite a leader,” Brown said. “She has improved her skills a lot and has become very consistent and steady.”
Fellow sophomore Janie Alderete features one of the best serves on the team, as well as a defensive prowess.
“Janie has a very good serve,” Brown said. “She could almost be a serve specialist. She has the ability to put the ball anywhere on the floor and has developed both a deep-floater and a jump-floater serve in the spring. She provides a real spark off the bench.”
Senior Adrienne Shimmel brings the most raw defensive talent to the back row.
“Adrienne brings enthusiasm and energy into the game,” Brown said. “She has the ability to make great defensive plays.”
Michelle Graham and Kristen Kinder will also see some time as defensive specialists.
“Michelle brings experience and court savvy to the back row,” Brown said. “She helps the other players by talking through the rallies and telling hitters where the open shots are. She also brings a calming influence to the court. Kristen has good back row skills with consistent defense and solid passing ability. She can also inject her real competitive nature into the game.”
The 2000 schedule brings a bevy of highly ranked teams into the Joyce Center early in the year, as well as at the BIG EAST volleyball championship November 17-19. The Irish have a school-record 19 home matches scheduled for the season, highlighted by the Shamrock, Golden Dome and adidas Invitationals in early September. Five teams (BYU, Clemson, UCLA, Nebraska, and Colorado State) ranked in the final top 25 of 1999 will visit South Bend this season. The Joyce Center hasn’t been the friendliest environment for visiting teams, as the Irish hold a 162-61 (.726) overall record in matches played at home. The Debbie Brown-era has been even worse for visiting teams as the Irish have posted a 108-16 (.870) record in the Joyce under Brown.
“We play most of the top teams early in the season,” Brown said. “We will have to come in and play at a high level very early. We will be able to measure where we are in the country right away. With our team this year, it is just a matter of us knowing that we belong and should be playing at a high level with those teams. I think (the schedule) is very exciting for our program and will give us the opportunity to do some very good things.”
The BIG EAST Schedule
1999 marked the first season the Irish lost in the BIG EAST postseason tournament. They have claimed four regular-season BIG EAST titles as well as four BIG EAST tournament titles, in five years of conference competition. The Irish should be featured to win the conference again in 2000, but will have to deal with conference rivals Georgetown, Pittsburgh and Syracuse.
“Over the last couple of years the conference has become highly competitive,” Brown said. “All the teams, top to bottom, have improved as the schools continue to support their programs. The BIG EAST has sent two teams to the NCAA tournament the last three years and I think we are on the verge of getting three, or perhaps four teams sometime in the near future.”