ND prepares for season with ‘The Program’
Henry Hilliard | Thursday, August 28, 2014
With only two weeks to prepare for a grueling fall schedule that features six teams ranked in the top 25 and the challenge of integrating six freshmen into the team, the Irish were forced to hit the ground running in their 2014 fall campaign, instituting a series of practices aimed at promoting both team and leadership development.
“Because there is such a very limited preseason practice schedule, our primary focus as been to everyone to play as a team rather than hone individual skills,” head coach Debbie Brown said.
Though the Irish was given a summer condition program by strength and conditioning coach Caitlin Sweeney, there was not much opportunity to practice or play in a team setting. They were primarily tasked with showing up in shape when two-a-day practices began Aug. 13.
Before formal practices began, however, the team participated in “The Program” on Aug. 11 and 12, an annual team and leadership development camp. For two days, the Irish participated in a series of intense workouts amplified by the summer heat.
On the first day, Notre Dame did outside exercises on the lacrosse field, including circuit training and carrying teammates on their arms across the field. On the second day, the Irish took to the pool at Rockne Memorial at 5:30 a.m., for a trying workout of treading water in sweatshirts and an hour of laps and exercises outside of the pool.
“I think that ‘The Program’ was a very effective way for our team to mesh and grow at an early stage so we can field the strongest team we can for the start of our season,” Brown said.
The 2014 Notre Dame squad will consist of nine returning players; six seniors, one junior and two sophomores, as well as the six freshmen. The freshman class, consisting of Maddie Dilfer, Sam Fry, Natalie Johnson, Jo Kremer, Sydney Kuhn and Maddie Plumlee, were ranked 16th as a recruiting class by Prep Volleyball.
“For freshmen, the biggest thing is adjusting to the speed of the collegiate game,” Brown said. “Everyone needs to adapt to having a shorter reaction time on the court, which will come naturally as the season continues. But so far I have definitely been pleased with the adaption of this class.”
Brown has not named any specific goals or captains for this year’s team and said she remains focused on promoting cohesion within the squad.
“The main thing we have emphasized this season is being great teammates,” Brown said. “We are asking for 100 percent effort 100 percent of the time; that is the base goal for our team.”
Notre Dame will begin the 2014 campaign on the road, facing No. 12 Minnesota on Friday and No. 6 Wisconsin on Saturday at the Sports Pavilion in Minneapolis. They will make their home debut next weekend with three games from Sept. 5-7 against Washington State, IUPUI and Western Michigan at the Purcell Pavilion.