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ND Volleyball: Irish ink five solid recruits

Tom Dorwart | Tuesday, November 15, 2005

In the middle of a very successful season, Irish coach Debbie Brown announced last Wednesday the signing of a highly-touted recruiting class – perhaps the best in Notre Da-me’s history.

Five high school standouts signed letters of intent to join the Irish next season, replacing the five seniors the team loses to graduation at the end of this year.

Outside hitter/middle blocker Megan Fesl of Arlington Heights, Ill., outside hitter Christina Kaelin of Lousiville, Ky., middle blocker Kim Kristoff of Carmel, Ind., setter Jamel Nicholas of Pittsburgh, Pa. and outside hitter/middle blocker Serinity Phillips of Valley Center, Calif., make up the heralded class.

They are labeled as one of the top recruiting classes in the nation according to prepvolleyball.com. Three of the athletes rank in the top 25 of high school seniors, while all five are ranked in the top 150.

“It’s a very strong class,” Brown said. “A lot of people rank them in the top 150 recruits, and three of them in the top 25, so we’re excited about it for sure.”

Only Nebraska and Penn State can claim to have nearly as good of a recruiting class as the Irish. Each of those current top 5 teams have signed two recruits ranked in the top 15 by prepvolleyball.com.

Other than that, the Irish have the rest of the AVCA top 25 beat.

While Bro-wn recognizes the incoming freshmen will need to contribute next season immediately, she doesn’t want to get too far ahead of herself. She wants to savor the moment and enjoy the outstanding season the Irish currently are having.

“We’re really excited about the class,” she said. “It’s a really good class. Obviously, we have an outstanding group of seniors right now. It’s not like you can replace them because each class is going to be different.”

Notre Dame is ranked No. 8 in the American Volleyball Coaches’ Association rankings and has won 24 of 26 matches this season. The Irish clinched the No. 1 seed in the Big East tournament and won the regular season for the 10th time in the past 11 years.

The Irish, who begin Big East tournament play Friday afternoon against Villanova in Louisville, are thinking more about the five seniors they have now.

“We really haven’t thought a whole lot, especially during the season right now, about how they’re [the five recruits] going to fit in and all that kind of stuff because we’re pretty preoccupied with what we’re doing with the team right now,” Brown said.

Still, this season’s successes are already having a huge impact for the Notre Dame volleyball program.

And while this year’s five seniors are irreplaceable, five top recruits certainly won’t hurt.

“We feel good about each of [the recruits] and the things that they bring,” Brown said.

Next season, the Irish will have junior Danielle Herndon and sophomores Adrianna Stasiuk, Ashley Tarutis and Ellen Heintzman back as their core. In addition to those four, freshmen Mallorie Croal, Madison Clark, Justine Stremick and Annie Mokris will be back. Those four have all contributed throughout the season.