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Volleyball: Sciacca concludes career

Michael Todisco | Thursday, November 11, 2010

It takes a special kind of talent to start for all four years on a collegiate varsity sports team. Count senior volleyball star Kellie Sciacca among that group.

In the four years that Sciacca has been with the program, she has taken part in every one of the team’s 113 matches, and her historic four years at Notre Dame have been flush with accomplishments and honors.

The middle hitter has been named a top Northeast Region Performer by the American Volleyball Coaches’ Association (AVCA) in each of her seasons, and just recorded the 1,000th kill of her career on Oct. 15 against DePaul, becoming only the ninth player in Notre Dame history to record 1000 kills and 400 blocks.

While she was recruited by many programs, Sciacca always held a special place for Notre Dame, catalyzed by a childhood trip to a Notre Dame-Air Force football game. She said she remembers her first trip to campus for her recruiting visit fondly.

“My dad and I were driving down Notre Dame Ave. with the dome in front of us and I just got the feeling that this was a really special place,” Sciacca said. “After a few hours of touring campus, it didn’t take long for me to know that I wanted to go to Notre Dame. I still visited other schools, but I knew that Notre Dame was where I wanted to be.”

Once she enrolled at Notre Dame, she immediately made an impact on the volleyball court. Sciacca’s torrid hitting pace earned her Big East Freshman of the Week honor three times, as well as the AVCA Northeast Region Freshman of the Year award, as she became the second Irish player to earn the honor.

During her freshman year, Sciacca found herself under the mentorship of former Notre Dame volleyball standout and assistant coach Lauren Brewster. She attributes much of her success in volleyball to the lessons, both on and off the court, she learned from Brewster.

“[Lauren] really had an impact on me when I first arrived on campus,” Sciacca said. “She was one of the best players in Notre Dame history, and she played my position, so she really taught me a lot and I just really wanted to work hard to make her happy and do all the things she wanted me to do. She was always there for me, especially whether I was frustrated with volleyball or overwhelmed with school.”

Following her strong freshman campaign, Sciacca’s game continued to improve. Irish coach Debbie Brown stressed the impressive developments that she has made in her time at Notre Dame.

“She has been an incredibly steady and strong offensive player who has improved with every year she has played,” Brown said. “Kellie has continued to become a smarter and more complete player and has made amazing strides from her freshman to senior year.”

In 2009, behind Sciacca’s outstanding hitting and blocking up front, the Irish went undefeated (14-0) in the Big East, and defeated Stanford, the No. 5 team in the country. By the end of the season in which Notre Dame qualified for the NCAA tournament, Sciacca had worked her way into the record books with the second highest career hitting percentage in the program’s history.

For her senior year the dynamics of the Notre Dame program changed dramatically. The Irish lost several seniors from the veteran team of 2009, and Sciacca found herself a leader on a very young team.

“I hope to have a positive impact on the younger players, and I try to be somebody that they can come to if they have problems on or off the court,” Sciacca said. “I want to affect them in a positive way so they can lead Notre Dame volleyball to success in the future. Even though my career is close to being over, I can only hope that my impact on the younger girls is something that can still be around even when I’m not.”

Although her career is winding down, Sciacca still has big aspirations for the rest of her time with the Irish, who currently sit at 15-11.

“For the end of the season we still have some big goals,” Sciacca explained. “We want to win the Big East tournament, and we are absolutely confident that we can accomplish this. If we play to our potential we can beat anybody. After that, we have our eyes on a good run in the NCAA tournament.”

Although Sciacca’s prowess on the volleyball court may at times look effortless, she stresses that life as a Notre Dame student-athlete is by no means easy.

“There is consistently a ton of pressure to perform at the highest possible level and to play well consistently,” she said. “In addition to the stress that is brought about from sports, there is also the pressure and stress that school brings.”

However difficult the four years may have been, Sciacca stressed that the Notre Dame community has supported her in all her endeavors, and she is thankful for the time she spent here.

“Being a part of the Notre Dame community has helped me tremendously,” she said. “It’s really hard to believe how fast time goes by, but I have loved my career thus far at Notre Dame. This is just such a great place, and I think it’s unlike any other school in the country. I’m thankful for the opportunity to play the sport I love here at Notre Dame.”