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ND Women’s Volleyball: Eppink gets into sophomore swing

Meaghan Veselik | Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The energy the Irish bring to the volleyball court is almost contagious, and sophomore Hilary Eppink has definitely become part of the new epidemic in her sophomore season.

The middle blocker is not only having fun this season but she’s also stepping up her game unlike ever before, like she did last Sunday when Notre Dame (9-5) defeated Pittsburgh 3-0.

“I just wanted to stay aggressive, not get tentative, not get passive,” Eppink said. “I just wanted to really help out the team. It’s just fun out there; there’s a great energy, and I wanted to keep going.”

Eppink did keep going for 12 kills and four blocks to lead the Irish as they closed out the Big East opening weekend. And her performance Sunday is only a preview of what the conference has in store from the Westfield, Ind. native who doesn’t plan to stop having fun anytime soon.

“I’m just having a lot of fun this season,” she said. “It’s fun getting kills and when the team works together and is successful, I just want to keep rolling with it.”

The rolling has not come easy for Eppink, who, standing at 6-foot-2, played in only 39 sets last season and had 51 kills while also putting up 39 blocks, both more than any of her classmates. This season she has already doubled the amount of kills and made 56 blocks, suggesting a newfound confidence and intensity in her play, which raises the question, where did she come from?

“I’m a lot more comfortable on the floor, talking, being outgoing. The team is really meshing well,” Eppink said.

Along with feeling more comfortable on the floor, Eppink said she feels she is coming into herself as a player and finding her own motivation.

“What motivates me off the court is simply wanting to have fun and do my best,” she said. “On the court, I guess it’s sort of a pride thing. I just want to prove to other teams who we are and that they should be afraid to play us.”

After beginning to play volleyball on a city team in fourth grade, she was hooked for life and the chance to play for such a notable team was only a fantasy for Eppink.

“Notre Dame was one of my dream schools,” she said. “Not only is it one of the top institutions in the country, but getting the opportunity to play volleyball at the same time was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Taking advantage of the opportunity has led to new ones with her teammates, on and off the court, that have added to her college experience. Her favorite team memory wasn’t even on the court.

“One of my favorite memories of being on the ND team was being able to attend a New York Yankees game after our match,” she said. “Not only was it my first professional baseball game, but we also went on a tour of the stadium and watched the game from an executive suite.”

Aside from the off-court fun, Eppink said she has more serious goals for herself and her team this season that she is working to achieve.

“Some of my season goals are to keep playing with intensity and getting better with each match,” Eppink said. “As for team goals, I would have to say going undefeated in the Big East again, doing well in the NCAA tournament, and also getting better with each match. In working to achieve these goals, I’m going to play smarter, have a clear head and just have fun.”

If her recent performances don’t speak for themselves, Eppink is certainly on her way to achieving her own goals and helping the Irish to capture their own.