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Henican emerges as the go-to girl

Anne Loughery | Thursday, November 11, 2004

Calling Meg Henican captain is insufficient.

In addition to the leadership role she has assumed, Henican has become a go-to girl for the defense and an inspirational player who keeps the team’s spirits high.

“[Henican] adds a lot of confidence to the team,” freshman Ashley Tarutis said. “We know we can always count on Meg for a key dig or a big play. She always comes up with these spectacular digs that just amaze everyone.”

But her teammates aren’t the only ones she has impressed.

More recently, the libero Henican was recognized as the Big East Conference Player of the Week – just the second libero ever to earn the honor. Tarutis said Henican’s award was more than merited.

“I think it shows that all of her hard work has paid off,” Tarutis said. “She finally got recognized for what she’s really good at.”

The junior libero has proven she is deserving of the honor throughout the season. Tarutis says the team can always count on her to jumpstart a rally or extend a run.

“When we’re going through a hard time, she makes those big plays that put us back on track,” Tarutis said. “She’s a really tenacious player. If she sees an opportunity to help the team, she’ll go for it.”

Henican demonstrated this go-getter attitude in Notre Dame’s Oct. 31 match against Villanova.

In one of her more solid defensive performances of the season, Henican totaled 26 digs, accounting for 45 percent of Notre Dame’s digs against Villanova. In addition, she helped limit the Wildcats’ offense to .007 on hitting.

Coach Debbie Brown says that Henican’s most significant contributions cannot be inferred from statistics, however.

“She takes a really large area of the court as her responsibility,” Brown said. “She can really frustrate hitters because she’s consistent and keeps getting digs.

“That’s something that will never show up in the box scores, but it’s a huge part of our success.”

Last year, Henican played a prominent role on the defense as well, becoming the third player in Irish history to record 400 digs in a season. In addition, Henican’s efforts were part of the reason Notre Dame limited Big East opponents to a .134 hitting percentage and set a school record for fewest service aces allowed per game with 0.94.

“She’s always been a fighter and a competitor,” Brown said. “We cannot afford to not have her on the court. When we’re not doing well, she helps to refocus the group.”

Although the Irish are still focusing on one match at a time, a Big East championship and a long run in the NCAA tournament are still in the back of their minds.

Henican said she believes the team is capable of fulfilling this season-long wish list, as long as they remain focused and play consistently.

“We’re extremely talented,” Henican said. “We can accomplish great things. We just have to trust that we can and will win.”