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



ND Volleyball: Silva keeping team focused

Meaghan Veselik | Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A familiar voice on the Irish volleyball court has rung out louder than ever before in the first few weeks on campus, and it doesn’t belong to one of the coaches.

Frenchy Silva, a junior libero and defensive specialist, has stepped up her game and is keeping her teammates focused as they begin their 2010 season.

Despite standing at only 5-foot-4, Silva has never let her height keep her down on the court. Instead, she can be seen flashing across the court to rescue a teammate setter who played the first ball, setting up a strong defensive layout and digging her heart out.

“She’s an explosive player,” Irish coach Debbie Brown said. “She plays with a lot of experience and emotion, keeps everybody fired up and talks to them on the court a lot.”

Silva’s fired-up attitude is clear to her coaches and teammates, but she also has the stats to back it up. In her sophomore season, Silva recorded 323 digs, the most of any returning player, and added in 22 over the weekend in the Shamrock Invitational. But the numbers don’t come without some hard work.

When she joined the team in 2008, Silva’s speed often caused her legs to move faster than her arms, making her passes jerky. This problem also came from her background in soccer, not volleyball, which came as a second choice at first.

“Initially I liked soccer better, but then I think the challenge of a new sport was really what pulled me in, especially because I started out as a hitter,” Silva said. “I am relatively small, so having to prove myself against other taller opponents was a lot of fun. I fell in love with the fast-paced nature of the game.”

Learning to slow down the game in her body and mind has made Silva the stronger player that she is today. From the start of her freshman year to now, Brown feels that Silva has improved in all of her skills on the court, including becoming more patient in her passing and smoothing out the bumpy passes. Furthermore, she has improved to become a skilled defensive specialist, able to read and understand a team’s strategies in order to make better defensive moves herself.

But Silva’s growth is not limited to her athletic abilities.

“As a player, she’s improved in all areas, and as a leader, she’s progressed in terms of being vocal and keeping her team engaged and involved,” Brown said.

Her team is what is most important to Silva and what keeps her motivated throughout the season, athletically and academically. When she came on a college visit in high school to Notre Dame, she tried to dislike the school. A southern California native, Silva had ties to USC but was pulled in by the atmosphere on campus.

“I was blown away by the amount of spirit, tradition and pride that I could potentially be a part of,” she said. “I also felt an immediate click with many of the girls on the team as well as the coaches. I truly felt at home and knew that I could not pass up on the opportunity.”

“I have been really self-motivated my entire life and am never satisfied. I want to continue to improve and get better every day and know that day in and day out I am giving everything I have to my team. I get uneasy thinking that while I am resting somebody else could be out there working harder, so I do everything I can to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

As Silva and her teammates work toward another successful season in hopes of a second consecutive undefeated Big East season and a run in the NCAA Tournament, there are only a few goals on their minds.

“As a team and individually I think a huge goal is to make each practice, each match better than the one before,” Silva said. “Every day we have to be focused and united as a team to get better. A huge theme for our team this year is the concept of “one team, one goal.”

Silva and the Irish will be advancing in their journey to perfection this week as they travel to Reno, Nev., to play in the Nevada Invitational Friday and Saturday.