ND Volleyball: Irish hope to live up to expectations
Chris Masoud | Saturday, August 22, 2009
One phrase can motivate a team or damage a team before the season even starts, and that phrase describes this year’s squad: high expectations.
The Irish received five first-place votes and a total of 178 points in the pre-season Big East coaches poll and sit tied at No. 2 with Cincinnati.
The high rank comes despite a less than spectacular 2008 season in which the Irish finished 14-13 in the regular season and took second in the Big East tournament.
The Irish may need to avoid turning the preseason poll into a jinx. After last season’s preseason coaches poll had Notre Dame finishing fourth in the Big East standings, the team fell to fifth with a 9-5 record in conference play.
The Irish will be counting on more than luck to carry them to victory during the length of the season. Senior Christina Kaelin and junior Kellie Sciacca return to lead the squad. Both were all-Big East selections for the Irish last year and will likely have to continue their dominance in the conference for the squad to have success.
Kaelin, a 5-foot-10 outside hitter, made an immediate impression during her freshman year by amassing 24 kills against Bowling Green in her first collegiate experience, which tied an Notre Dame record for the second-best mark in a three-game match. Kaelin was also twice named Big East Rookie of the Week.
Sciacca adds depth and talent as a 6-foot-1 middle blocker to an already experienced team that features six returning seniors and four juniors. Like Kaelin, Sciacca wasted no time in making a name for herself during her freshman year. Sciacca became only the second Irish player to earn the AVCA Northeast Region Freshman of the year honor.
But this year’s most promising sign may be the return of assistant head coach Robin Davis, who spent five years on the Notre Dame volleyball staff from 2002-2005. Davis spent the last three seasons as the head coach at Boise State and replaces former assistant coach Greg Smith, who was named head coach of the University of Toledo in May.
“I’m really excited to have Robin back on staff,” Irish coach Debbie Brown told und.com.
Led by experience both on the court and on the sidelines, the Irish will begin the 2009 season with a Big East title on their minds from start to finish.