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ND Volleyball: All-around freshman makes quick impact

Meaghan Veselik | Wednesday, October 6, 2010

From the junior national team courts to the Purcell Pavilion to earning three Big East honors, freshman outside hitter Andrea McHugh has made her skills known early on in her Irish career.

“What her biggest strength is, is her ability to play the whole game,” Irish coach Debbie Brown said. “She’s a really good all-around player. She’s a good passer. She’s a good defender, good hitter, good server. Front and back row she does a really good job. That’s so valuable to have somebody like that on the court.”

An outstanding player from anywhere on the court, McHugh has brought her extensive experience to Notre Dame and has proved an unstoppable force thus far. She put up a career-high 19 kills at Georgetown Oct. 3 to place her at a total 189 in 16 matches. Add in her .909 serving percentage, 18 blocks and 128 digs, and you have the versatile player Brown felt the Irish needed this season.

“We really needed somebody who we would call a sixth rotation outside hitter,” Brown said. “Somebody that would come in and that has a good command of all aspects of the game. That’s definitely the void that we had to be filled.”

Not only has McHugh been able to take on the role Notre Dame had ready for her but she also comes with extensive experience that has prepared her well to compete at the collegiate level.

A Yoba Linda, Calif. native, McHugh was a member of the 2009 U.S. Youth National Team and she also played in the 2009 FIVB World Youth Championships in Thailand. On the high school stage, McHugh set a number of school records, including career leader in kills (1,019) and digs (793), and led her El Dorado High School team to league championships in 2008 and 2009. Her school’s team was ranked 40th in the nation by PrepVolleyball.com while she was named 76th on their list of Senior Aces as well as one of their 2009 All-Americans.

“She’s a strong competitor, and she’s easy to get along with,” Brown said. “I think her teammates enjoy playing with her and she enjoys playing with them.”

The 11-5 Irish team is a central component in McHugh’s early success, especially on the conference level where they undefeated at 4-0 and from which she has earned three Freshman of the Week honors.

“Every time she’s won it, obviously her stats have been very good and the team has won,” Brown said. “Whenever we have the individual recognitions, it’s always because the team has done well, first and foremost. Usually with her, she’s hitting for a high percentage, she’s hitting for kills per game, she may have either aces or digs to go along with that to get the award. She is very deserving of it, but it’s something that wouldn’t happen without the team having success as well.”

The first came on Aug. 30 when McHugh was given the honor after her Irish Invitational debut performance. It was the first time a Notre Dame player had earned the award after the season’s opening weekend since Christina Kaelin did in 2006.

The second came Sept. 27 after she had 4.17 kills/set and 3.33 digs/set in Notre Dame’s conference opening weekend, and the third this week from her 13 kills and five aces against USF Oct. 1 and 19 kills on a .562 hitting percentage at Georgetown Oct. 3.

McHugh and the Irish are back on the road this weekend, taking on Louisville Oct. 9 and Cincinnati Oct. 10, where they will hope to carry on their four-match win streak.