ND’s struggles result in leadership change
Brian Plamondon | Friday, May 15, 2015
Notre Dame’s season did not turn out as it had hoped and, as a result, the team will no longer have a familiar face roaming the sideline during the 2015 season.
Director of athletics Jack Swarbrick announced longtime Irish head coach Debbie Brown would not return in December, with the team struggling to a 6-23 record, including a 3-15 mark in ACC play, this past season. Brown departed after amassing more than 500 wins, 15 regular-season conference titles and 18 NCAA championship appearances. However, she struggled in the transition to the ACC, going 7-13 in the conference last year in addition to a second-to-last place finish this past fall.
“This last season was definitely a disappointment,” freshman middle blocker Sam Fry said. “Every time we look back on our record, it’s a little bit degrading. But it’s definitely something we’re going to learn from.”
Fry was one of the few bright spots for the Irish, garnering 2014 all-ACC freshman honors while leading the team in total blocks with 107. In addition, Fry was second in points (324.0) and third in kills (242).
“It was definitely a big honor,” Fry said. “I wouldn’t have been able to get that award if it weren’t for my teammates helping me out, and also Coach Deb giving me an opportunity to play and lead the team like I did.”
Fry was not the only underclassman who got a chance to contribute. As the Irish were beset by injuries all year, eight underclassmen (including six freshmen) were called upon to play important roles this year.
“We all experienced what it was like to play at the collegiate level and work hard,” Fry said. “I just think this experience we had, one season under our belt, will help us become better leaders for the other girls coming in.
“It definitely was really helpful getting those reps. You have to be more mentally focused, just because volleyball is such a mental game. … This past fall we definitely learned how to deal with our emotions, really play mentally tough.”
Even before injuries became the story, the Irish struggled despite a veteran squad with six seniors on the team.
Notre Dame dropped its first six games before earning its first win Sept. 13 against Northeastern. The squad had four losing streaks of at least three matches in addition to its season-opening struggles. After a 3-2 win against Louisville on Nov. 9, the Irish limped down the stretch, dropping their final five games.
Fry said there were multiple areas the team needs to progress in.
“Definitely improving our fundamentals [is one area],” Fry said. “And working on your individual game and making sure everyone is doing their job on the court. I think another thing to is just staying positive. … We’re going to be frustrated, but if we’re not frustrated we’re not getting better. … There is a process.”
The Irish will turn their attention to next year without their six seniors, but they will undoubtedly miss middle blocker Jeni Houser and outside hitter Nicole Smith. Houser, who led the team with 289 kills this season, finished her career with 1,299 kills, good for a tie for eight place in program history. Smith was second on the team with 249 kills. Returning such a young team that already has plenty of experience, Fry said the Irish will use the 2014 season as motivation moving forward.
“This next year we’re going to come in with kind of a chip on our shoulder,” Fry said. “We never want to have feelings like that again.”
In January, Swarbrick announced Jim McLaughlin, former head coach and national champion at Washington, would be the new Irish head coach.