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ND Volleyball: Alugbue cements role as leader on offense

Katie Heit | Tuesday, September 3, 2013

After earning All-American honors in the 2012 season, junior outside hitter Toni Alugbue continued her dominant streak at the Blue Raider Bash on Friday and Saturday, earning all-tournament honors in the first matches of the season.

Though the Irish went 1-2 in the tournament – dropping matches to North Carolina and Middle Tennessee State before claiming victory against San Francisco on Saturday – Alugbue was a major force on offense, totaling 35 kills and 22 digs for the weekend.

“Toni has been a major force for us,” Irish coach Debbie Brown said. “She’s returning as our high scorer, and for us to have the success we want to have this year, she’s going to carry a huge offensive load.”

A Del Aire, Calif., native, Alugbue said choosing her college and her team wasn’t difficult.

“I’m a homebody,” Alugbue said. “All of my family went to school in California. But I never felt like I was more than just an athlete at those schools. Volleyball won’t last forever and when it came down to it, I knew I would get more out of my time at Notre Dame.”

Though she has been a starter since her freshman year, Alugbue came to Notre Dame as a middle blocker, making the change to outside hitter her sophomore season. Alugbue said the transition took some time, but now she sees herself as a consistent force on the outside.

Senior captain and outside hitter Andrea McHugh said Alugbue has been an influential part of the team since she arrived.

“Ever since she came in as a freshman, we knew she was going to have a large role on our team,” McHugh said. “She’s definitely looked at as one of the key players on offense, along with [junior middle blocker Jeni Houser].”

Brown said Alugbue’s main responsibility lies in her ability to be an all-around player.

“She can play the whole game,” Brown said. “She’ll pass, receive a lot of serves and she gets a lot of digs. She is a major contributor in her all-around play.”

Heading into this season, Alugbue is eager for a new conference – the ACC – and new opportunities.

“The Big East was good to us, but I’m very excited to play new teams,” Alugbue said. “This whole season is a new set of volleyball and I’m excited to travel and play good teams every single weekend.”

Alugbue said she thinks the Irish will have a successful season, especially due to the number of returning players.

“We have a lot of seasoned vets,” Alugbue said. “Our team chemistry is awesome and we’re going to be looking good on the court.”

Alugbue and the Irish are back in action Friday at 7 p.m. when they take on Bowling Green at home in the Golden Dome Invitational.

Contact Katie Heit at kheit@nd.edu