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ND Volleyball: Chemistry key to success

Laura Myers | Monday, September 7, 2009

It’s a word that sophomores hate and freshmen fear, but one that sports teams need for survival.

That word is chemistry, and Notre Dame is saturated with it.

“I think the chemistry is good,” Irish coach Debbie Brown said. “I think we have a very experienced team … I think it’s very positive.”

Experience is a big factor in team chemistry – Notre Dame’s six seniors have known each other since they signed their letters of intent close to five years ago, and even the juniors and sophomores have had plenty of playing time together.

“They’ve been through the preseason, the tournaments before,” Brown said. “It helps when the majority of the team is upperclassmen rather than underclassmen. It’s always really good when you can get the freshmen in there too, but I think the seniors and leadership are the biggest factors.”

Notre Dame (3-3) has had its ups and downs in the early part of the season, highlighted by a 3-0 sweep of No. 5 Stanford on Aug. 29 at home as part of the Shamrock Invitational.

Each of the team’s three losses, two of which came this weekend in Cincinnati at the Xavier Invitational, has been a sweep as well.

“It’s very, very early in the season and obviously we would have liked to do better last weekend but we’re learning a lot, we’re making good progress,” Brown said.

A noticeable feature of the team’s play so far is the fact that each player has a clearly defined and distinct role. It is clear from the early statistics that each player knows her place well.

Senior outside hitter Serinity Phillips and sophomore outside hitter Kristen Dealy lead the team in kills with 62 and 60, respectively; senior setter Jamel Nicholas leads in assists with an astonishing 211; junior middle blocker Kellie Sciacca leads in blocks with 14; and sophomore libero Frenchy Silva leads the team in digs with 50. All what one would expect from these position players, and when it all gets put together these roles only add to the team chemistry.

“It’s early in the season and roles are becoming defined,” Brown said. “I think there are always roles to change and different people to emerge but I think the team understands that in order to be successful everyone needs to accept their roles.”

The Irish have two more invitational tournaments before beginning Big East play at Connecticut on Sept. 25. Brown reiterated the importance of her upperclassmen in preparing for the rest of the season.

“I think when you have as many seniors as we do and the strong leadership that we have, I think that’s the most significant factor for us to have a successful season,” she said. “It’s going to get tougher and tougher but we’re going to be ready.”

The upcoming season will have many more tests, but in one area the Irish have shown they are totally prepared.