The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



ND Volleyball: Nicholas’ assists lead ND into home stretch

Sam Werner | Tuesday, October 28, 2008

It isn’t Jamel Nicholas’ job to rack up dozens of kills like outside hitters Christina Kaelin and Kelly Sciacca, but that doesn’t mean the junior setter hasn’t put up some gaudy numbers of her own.

Over the weekend, Nicholas posted 31 and 49 assists against Villanova and Seton Hall, respectively, and leads the Irish with 690 assists on the season. But the Gibsonia, Pa., native prefers to remain modest about her contributions to the team.

“I think I’ve done okay,” Nicholas said. “Being the setter out there, I need to direct traffic and keep putting up a great set so that our hitters can get a kill.”

The 5-1 formation the Irish play is designed for Nicholas to get most of the assists, but the sociology/FTT double major still has to work to develop a strong rapport with her hitters. Nicholas said she and Kaelin arrive to practices early to work on their timing.

“It’s really just repetition and repetition,” Nicholas said. “And getting in scrimmage situations and things like that to help us understand positions.”

That relationship was on full display Oct. 12 in a match against Pittsburgh. Despite Notre Dame’s loss to the Panthers, Nicholas notched a career-high 54 assists, and Kaelin capitalized with 21 kills.

In her role as setter, it is Nicholas’ job to run the offense on the court during the course of a match. She said her biggest responsibilities are calling the plays and deciding what type of set is best for a given situation.

Nicholas credited part of her success to the fact that she had the opportunity to play with former Irish setter Ashley Tarutis for two years before taking over the starting role this season.

“[Tarutis] helped me learn the offense and taught me how things were run on the court,” Nicholas said. “I just went off and mimicked what I could from her.”

Nicholas and the Irish (11-11, 6-3 Big East) currently sit in third place in the Big East, tied with Pittsburgh and trailing Cincinnati and St. John’s. Nicholas said that, while she had hoped for a better start, she’s confident Notre Dame will make a run in its remaining matches.

“I think we have done OK up to this point,” she said. “We’ve won some big games, but we’ve also let down matches that we should won. If we just keep working everyday at the gym, we’ll be happy with the result.”

The Irish have already lost their matches against Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, but have a matchup with conference-leading St. John’s on Nov. 14 at the JACC. Nicholas, though, said she isn’t worried about the teams on Notre Dame’s schedule.

“The only things we can control are on our side of the net,” she said. “So we just need to come out the second half of the Big East [schedule] and get the job done.”