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ND Volleyball:Senior looking towards med school after college

Joe Meixell | Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Notre Dame still has at least three games remaining in its 2008 season, hopefully more with postseason tournaments, but forgive senior middle blocker Justine Stremick for already thinking about the next phase of her life.

Stremick was in Atlanta Monday, interviewing at Emory University Medical School, which she hopes to attend after graduating in May.

“I’m either going to go straight out of college or I’m thinking about taking a year off and doing service,” she said. “But I’m doing all my interviews now.”

After posting five blocks in a 3-0 win over Rutgers Sunday, Stremick flew straight to Atlanta, and didn’t return to Notre Dame until last night.

“I really liked Emory,” she said. “I feel like that about every school, but I really think I liked this one more.”

Doing work while traveling is something Stremick has become accustomed to. The Langdon, N.D. native posted a 3.76 grade point average last year, and was named to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District V second team.

“We’re really good about working on the road, on the buses and in the airport,” she said. “You just have to be able to study in non-optimal study environments.”

Stremick has excelled on the volleyball court as well as the classroom. Her freshman year, she was used mostly as a substitute to add depth to the Irish frontline, notching 15 blocks in only 23 matches. Stremick said that her favorite moment during her four years at Notre Dame was the team’s trip to the UTSA Dome Rally in the Alamodome that season in San Antonio, where the Irish took down No. 8 USC and No. 6 Florida, propelling them to No. 8 in the AVCA National Poll.

“We beat them both in three and won the tournament,” Stremick said. “I had a lot of fun, being on the road with the team for the first time.”

Her sophomore year, Stremick stepped in as a full-time starter for the Irish, playing in all 114 games. She led the team in hitting percentage (.304) and blocks (156).

Stremick asserted herself as a dominant player in the Big East her junior year, ranking fourth in the league in both hitting percentage (.369) and blocks per game (1.58).

So far this year, Stremick leads the Irish with 1.06 blocks/game, despite missing the first six matches recovering from injury. Last March, Stremick tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and meniscus. She completed her rehab a month earlier than doctors expected, but still had to sit out Notre Dame’s first two early-season tournaments.

“It sucks to just sit out and watch,” she said. “So I really appreciate being able to play more than I did before.”

Stremick said that despite all the individual accolades she has achieved with the Irish, she said she wished the team could have more success during her four years.

“I didn’t want my freshman season to be my best season, as far as the team goes,” she said. “I had a lot of fun, the team has been a lot of fun. As a player I’ve learned a lot. It would have been nice to see more win’s the last couple of years, though.”

Stremick will have a chance to achieve some of that success this postseason, starting with key matches this weekend against conference leader St. John’s and fourth-place Connecticut, followed by the Big East conference tournament.

“Obviously this weekend is going to be important,” she said. “I think the attitude I’m taking is just to finish strong. We know that we have a good team.”

As the only senior middle blocker on Notre Dame’s roster, Stremick said it’s her job to use her experience to teach and direct the younger players.

“I just really bring my confidence to the front line when we’re serving and blocking and let everyone know what’s coming and where the hitters are,” she said. “I just really take control of the net when I’m in the front row.”

Stremick said she fully expects the younger players will be ready to step in and fill her role after she graduates. She said when she was injured at the beginning of the year, she got to run some drills in practice and was struck by how quickly the younger players developed.

“I think they’re definitely ready to step in,” she said. “We’ve got some good younger players.”

Leaving Notre Dame volleyball in good hands, it’s time for Stremick to move on to other things, like saving lives.