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ND Volleyball: Serving up success

Chris Masoud | Thursday, September 24, 2009

Led by a senior class considered as one of the best recruiting classes in the program’s 30-year history, Irish fans had a pretty good idea of what to expect heading into the 2009 season.

While the six seniors have more than lived up to expectations, it is the exceptional performance of the underclassmen that have the Irish sitting at 6-4 as they enter Big East play on Friday.

Although the freshmen have yet to see significant playing time, the sophomores and juniors have been more than willing to step up and fill the void left behind by last year’s class.

Emerging as one of the team’s biggest offensive contributors, sophomore outside hitter Kristen Dealy leads the squad with 126 total kills (3.5 kills/set) and 9 serving aces, and is second in total points with 139 (3.86 points/set).

“Kristen Dealy is just so valuable for us in every aspect of the game, just a great overall player,” Irish coach Debbie Brown said. “She definitely has the capability to be a dominant hitter at the collegiate level.”

In recognition of her efforts, Dealy was named Big East Conference Player of the Week following the Irish sweep of the Notre Dame/adidas Invitational. Dealy led the Irish with 19 kills and 13 digs for her first double-double of the season against Wisconsin, and added a match-high 12 kills against New Mexico State later in the showcase.

But the Irish’s success this season cannot be attributed to just one performer. Junior middle blocker Kellie Sciacca, named to the All-Big East Preseason Team, has played a dominant role at the net for the Irish in clutch situations. Sciacca paces the team with 8 solo blocks and 31 total blocks (0.86 blocks/set), and is third overall in kills and points.

Senior outside hitter Serinity Phillips, who leads the Irish in points (144) and in kills alongside Dealy, recognizes the seniors’ role of leading by example.

“It’s a matter of just doing what you know how to do, trusting your teammates, going out there, and trying not to over-think things,” Phillips said.

Yet the Irish will need to rely on more than just their ability to overpower their opponents if they are to have success in the conference. Sophomore libero Frenchy Silva, the defensive specialist who leads the team in digs with 95 (2.79 digs/set), may be the missing link that puts the Irish over the top.

“She’s a great defender, gives us good spark, does a lot of good things,” Brown said. “She’ll cover balls off a block, she’ll get great digs, she’ll end up setting the second ball when Jamel digs it, and getting our hitters good swings. I think she’s really developing her whole game as well.”

The Irish will need to rely on their balance of senior experience and young talent as they make a bid for the NCAA Tournament.