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ND VOLLEYBALL: Brewster honored by CVU

Tom Dorwart | Thursday, September 8, 2005

It’s coaching instinct.

When preseason All-American Lauren Brewster slips up – which is rarely – Debbie Brown almost wants to scold her star player.

But the 15-year Irish head coach thinks twice.

“I think it’s interesting because there are so many aspects of the game, and I wouldn’t get down on Lauren for anything,” Brown said. “But she struggled with her serving. Usually we get a lot of points on her serving.

“Both last [Saturday] night and tonight [Sunday, in the Shamrock Invitational], she started off not serving as well as she could have, but then she finished so strong.”

Brewster, the preseason Big East player of the year, had a total of six service errors last weekend against then No. 11 ranked Texas (1-1) and Arizona State (1-4). But she also had 46 kills, a .310 attack percentage, 10 digs and 11 blocks on the weekend, earning tournament MVP honors.

She has led the Irish to a 3-0 start this season including last weekend’s sweep of their own invite and a victory over archrival Michigan in the season opener. Her performance landed her in unmatched territory for a Notre Dame volleyball player.

On Tuesday, Brewster became the first Irish player ever to be named the CVU.com National Player of the Week by Collegiate Volleyball Update and the second ever to be named national player of the week by any organization. She was also named the Big East Conference’s player of the week.

On Sunday night, Brewster collected a career-high 28 kills, also the second-highest total ever by a Notre Dame middle blocker.

The senior middle blocker has been “unbelievably valuable to the team right now,” Brown said. While she had a few lapses in her usually exceptional serving over the weekend, the 6-foot-3 Brewster gained confidence as the matches went along. Already equipped with outstanding talent and work ethic, she is nearly unstoppable on offense and impassable on defense as matches progress.

Some athletes might tire and fade, but Brewster wants the ball more.

“I think when it’s [the match] on the line, she wants the ball,” Brown said. “And she just does smart things. It’s her experience, her leadership, the way she’s leading by example.

“She was outstanding [last weekend].”

There’s not much of a break for Notre Dame – just this week in practice to prepare for another tough tournament.

The Irish will travel to San Antonio this weekend for the University of Texas San Antonio Dome Rally in the Alamodome, the site of this year’s volleyball Final Four. Continuing its already grueling schedule, Notre Dame takes on No. 8 ranked Southern California Friday at 7 p.m., Oklahoma Saturday at 1:30 p.m. and No. 6 ranked Florida Sunday at 11 a.m.

Brewster welcomes the challenge. She sees it as an opportunity, and she has no fear of other American Volleyball Coaches Association Top 25 teams – just respect.

“It is such an opportunity to play a team in the top 25,” she said.

Now, the Irish themselves are in the top 25. They entered at No. 19 this week after their successful weekend.

The ranking is their highest since Nov. 2003 when they were No. 17. They are 3-0 for the first time since the 2002 season.

Notre Dame hopes to have sophomore starting outside hitter Ellen Heintzman back by this weekend. She injured her medial collateral ligament in the Michigan match and sat out the Shamrock Invitational.

As a team with momentum, with a national player of the week and a returning starter, the Irish might be the ones to be feared in San Antonio.