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ND Volleyball: California girls run to play for Coach Brown

Conor Kelly | Wednesday, August 31, 2011

While Notre Dame volleyball may not have the same visibility as NCAA football or basketball for nationwide recruiting each year, the program has recently gained attention by locating a particular geographical niche with a pool of talented players.

Irish coach Debbie Brown found her gold mine in the Golden State. Of the 14 current players on the Notre Dame roster, six hail from California and call the West Coast home.

The influx of talented players from California has grown in recent years, such as sophomore outside hitter Andrea McHugh, who hails from Yorba Linda, Calif. McHugh, the reigning Big East Freshman of the Year, was named the conference’s first Player of the Week for the 2011 season.

“I started playing volleyball in the eighth grade, and it really just took off from there,” McHugh said. “You start playing on better and better club teams, and the competition gets pretty intense. I originally thought I would stay and play in California, but Notre Dame contacted me, I visited and I loved it.”

Part of Notre Dame’s West Coast access stems from associate head coach Robin Davis, formerly the head coach at Boise State and a former beach volleyball and AVP tour player. McHugh committed to Boise State before ultimately choosing Notre Dame.

“I loved Coach Davis, and he was a big part of getting me to Notre Dame,” McHugh said. “It also didn’t hurt that there were a bunch of California girls already on the team.”

While a school like the University of Texas has a football roster comprised almost exclusively of in-state talent, the Irish are more comparable to the Northwestern women’s lacrosse team than to the Longhorns. Winners of six of the last seven national championships, the Wildcats’ roster features 11 players from Long Island, N.Y.

For the coaches, regardless of geography, recruiting is simply a matter of going where the best athletes are. For the Californians, coming to a team that features players with similar backgrounds is a little bit of home in snowy South Bend.

“I love having teammates from California,” McHugh said. “We commiserate over the winter and talk about all the things we miss from back home. They were definitely a huge part of what brought me here and what makes me so comfortable here.”

Through the long winter months, the Californians now proudly call Notre Dame their home, and the Irish coaching staff is happy to have them.