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ND Volleyball: Notre Dame prepares for postseason play

Conor Kelly | Wednesday, November 7, 2012

As a freshman, Irish senior captain Marie Roof played sparingly on a team that won the Big East regular season championship and secured a bid to the NCAA tournament. While Roof’s sophomore and junior years passed without a chance to play for a national championship, the Irish are poised to return to the NCAAs, this time with Roof in a leadership role.

The team sits tied for first at 12-1 in the Big East heading into the final weekend of the regular season. With showdowns against fellow top seeds Louisville and Marquette to come, the team is positioned to win the regular season and appears to be a shoe-in for a bid to the NCAA tournament. For Roof, it couldn’t be a more fitting way to end her career.

“Going into this weekend, we have the chance to take the Big East regular season title, so that’s our number one goal right now,” Roof said. “Hopefully we can get that bid to the NCAAs, which is what we’re really working for. We haven’t gone since my freshman year, so it would be really cool to go full circle and get there again.”

Though Roof has not put up the gaudy statistics of teammates like Maggie Brindock or Jeni Houser, she has proved to be a stabilizing force on the Irish front as well as a leader on and off the court. Starting 13 of Notre Dame’s 25 games, Roof has notched 32 kills and 70 blocks from her right-side hitter position. One of just two seniors on the team, she views herself as an important leader for her younger teammates.

“My role on the team is special to me as a captain and senior leader, and it’s maybe something that I didn’t expect coming in as a freshman [to be a captain],” Roof said. “I help them with whatever they need, whether it’s volleyball or outside volleyball.”

A two-sport standout coming out of Mona Shores High School in Muskegon, Mich., in 2009, Roof was unsure whether to pursue volleyball or basketball in college. It was her visit to Notre Dame that sealed the deal and had her hitting balls over the net instead of through it.

“I think the first thing that drew me in was the people on my visit,” Roof said. “I loved the coaches, I loved the players and I knew that they were girls that I could get along with.”

“I considered basketball for a little while, but once I came on my visit here, I knew that this was where I wanted to be, so I chose volleyball.”

During her early years at Notre Dame, the former Ryan Hall resident credited her older teammates and specifically 2011 graduate Angela Puente for helping her adjust to life at the University and to collegiate volleyball. It is a role Roof hopes she can play for her own younger teammates.

“Puente was a junior my freshman year and then a captain her senior year,” Roof said. “She was in kind of the same position as me. Maybe she wasn’t the most dominant player on the team, but she was always there for everyone. She was a really good leader whether she was on the court or the sidelines.”

With just one game remaining at the Joyce Center this year, the desire to go out on top has galvanized the team and Roof, despite the bittersweet feeling of her last home match.

“Going into senior night, it’s really cool to be able to look back and see all that I’ve accomplished as an individual and all that our team has accomplished over the last four years,” Roof said. “It will be fun to look at all of that but also sad to say it’s my last time on the court.”

With the success of the team this year and looming postseason play, Roof said she has an increasing desire to go out on top.

“Everyone’s goal as a Division I athlete is to win the national championship,” Roof said. “Maybe it’s not always attainable, but it’s something you want to do, just to get as close as you can. That’s something that’s been on my mind all season.”

Contact Conor Kelly at ckelly17@nd.edu