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ND Volleyball: Houser exceeds even her own expectations

Meri Kelly | Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Junior middle blocker Jeni Houser, three-year starter and two-time monogram winner, came to Notre Dame completely unaware of the future success she would achieve wearing an Irish uniform. 

“At first I thought I would never play,” Houser said. “Mainly because the game of volleyball is so different from high school to college. It’s faster, the girls are smarter, and you are up against some of the top athletes in the country. I didn’t think I was going to start at all.”

Houser said when Irish coach Debbie Brown put her in the starting lineup during her freshman preseason, she was shocked. 

“I didn’t really think I would have that big of an impact as a freshman, but I did,” Houser said. 

Houser said after the first match, her initial fears of the intensity of college volleyball disappeared, a realization which allowed her to focus exclusively on winning the game. 

“The only real pressure I felt throughout my time at Notre Dame was during my very first match as a freshman,” Houser said. “But after I got the first set, and had my first kill, I realized that I can do this. From then on, I have played with the confidence and it has helped me succeed.”

Her freshman year, Houser had 20 games with 10+ kills, earned a monogram and was on the Big East All Conference Second Team. Her sophomore year, Houser was Big East All Conference First Team and earned All-American Honorable Mention honors. 

“One of my favorite successes freshman year was when we played No. 10 Stanford,” Houser said. “I had my career high kills of 19 and won MVP for the entire tournament. It was great to have my name out there, and for me to realize I can compete with these girls.” 

Houser said she is not the first member of her family to excel at collegiate athletics, following in the footsteps of her mother, who played basketball at Cal State Fullerton. 

“I think she wanted me to play basketball, but she knew I wasn’t the best at it, so she directed me in the direction of volleyball,” Houser said. 

Houser’s mother Danielle also helped her decide to come to Notre Dame. 

“When I came on my visit to Notre Dame it was like a hole in the wall for me. I knew nothing about Notre Dame,” Houser said. “My mom told me this was the kind of school people dreamed about going too. And when I came I fell in love with the campus, and other colleges did not compare.”

Houser said she has had great family support throughout her volleyball career. 

“My mom and my dad have been at every single one of my games, they come to all my home games at ND and even some of my away games,” Houser said. “I have a lot of support of my family, and I know they have dedicated a lot of time and energy to help get me to where I am today.” 

After college, Houser has hopes of playing volleyball overseas for a couple years. 

“After interning this summer in NY at Haddad Brands I realized I might not want to start at a desk job right away,” Houser said. “I can only play volleyball for so long, and I want to take the opportunity when I can.” 

This season, Houser said although the team is currently struggling she hopes they can get a bid in the NCAA tournament. 

“We are shooting to win out the rest of our games in the ACC conference to get an NCAA bid,” Houser said. “But if we don’t then we can come together as a team and take our struggling experiences this year to make ourselves better for next year.” 

Contact Meri Kelly at mkelly29@nd.edu