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Brewing up honors

Tom Dorwart | Thursday, August 25, 2005

Lauren Brewster doesn’t listen to any out-of-the-ordinary music to prep her for big games. She doesn’t showboat much on the court. And she isn’t the loudest person on the Notre Dame volleyball team. So what sets her apart from her teammates?

Her play, her leadership and her humility.

“I think that in the past I’ve tried more to lead by example, but that’s one of the things that I know I need to work on, to be more of a vocal leader,” Brewster said. “[Sophomore setter] Ashley Tarutis, on our team, does a great job of that.”

Brewster, a 6-foot-3 senior middle blocker, has developed into one the nation’s top all-around players.

She is the Big East preseason player of the year and along with fellow senior Meg Henican is a 2005 team co-captain. While the two are ready and willing to lead the Irish, Brewster realizes it’s the entire group of five seniors that will have to carry the team.

“I’m fortunate because of the class of five seniors we have,” Brewster said. “I think it gives us an advantage. It is special to have a lot of seniors out on the court. We’ve spent four years together, and we’re going to have a really great team.”

The seniors include setter Kelly Burrell, middle blocker/opposite Carolyn Cooper, outside hitter/middle blocker Lauren Kelbley, Brewster and libero/outside hitter Henican. In the off-season, Brewster and the seniors continued to improve their game.

“Lauren Kelbley, Carolyn Cooper … we just always work on blocks together,” Brewster said.

The Irish will take on eight 2004 NCAA tournament qualifiers and five pre-season Top 25 foes this fall. Though there is not much breathing room on the schedule, Brewster is excited to get the chance to compete against some powerhouses.

“It’s a good opportunity to play a team in the top 25 or top 10, and fortunately, we get to play a couple of them this year,” she said.

Brewster has started for the Irish since the first match of her freshman season. She’s a three-time all-Big East pick – honorable mention her freshman year and first-team her past two seasons.

As a sophomore, she finished first in Division I in individual blocking with an average of 1.78 per game and was named honorable mention American Volleyball Coaches’ Association [AVCA] All-American. She upped her game a few notches last season, earning third-team All-American, becoming the first Irish volleyball player ever to receive the prestigious honor. At last year’s Big East tournament, she was named Most Valuable Player.

Overall, she ranks in the top 10 in nine Notre Dame statistical categories including second in hitting percentage and blocking. And she needs only 167 blocks this season to become the Notre Dame career leader.

In addition to her play on the volleyball court, Brewster succeeds in the classroom. In each of her first three seasons with the Irish, she was named a Big East Academic All Star.

Despite all the awards and lofty expectations, the Big East’s top player shuns pressure.

“I guess there’s a lot of pressure and high expectations, but I can’t really think about that,” she said. “You just have to play. If you’re on the court, you’re not thinking, ‘Oh, I have to block this ball …’ You’re just playing the best that you can.”

Brewster is so focused she doesn’t really have time to think about pressure. Instead of getting nervous and turning to music or other forms of relaxation before big matches, she studies. Instead of meditating or bouncing off locker room walls, she assesses the opposition.

“Not anything unusual,” said Brewster – referring to her pre-game rituals. “I’ll go over some of our … blocking schemes and different things that I’ll go over about the other team.”

When asked about inspirational music she might use to fire herself up for a match, she laughed.

“No. I listen to ‘Here Come the Irish’,” she said. “I like that song a lot.”

According to Brewster, the veteran Irish team is pushing for more than just a 14th straight NCAA tournament appearance. The goal is to make a deep run.

“I would really like to see our team get to at least the Sweet 16, or the Elite 8, that would be the ultimate goal for me personally and for our team,” Brewster said.

So when the Irish are warming up before their first regular-season game this Saturday, when the ubiquitous “Here Come the Irish” song blares over the loudspeakers at the Joyce Center, Lauren Brewster – the All-American, the All Star student, the hard-working teammate – most likely won’t be too nervous.

She’ll be focused.