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




Brian Hartnett | Tuesday, April 17, 2012

As the crush of joggers around the lakes, presence of lax bros on the quads and appearance of the sun might suggest, spring has descended upon Notre Dame’s campus. With it comes the reemergence of one of Notre Dame’s finest traditions. It’s not Bookstore Basketball, or the Fisher Regatta, or even the annual quarterback auditions held on the practice fields. Rather, it’s a tradition unlike any other: Carroll Hall sand volleyball.

You heard that right, a tradition originating from Notre Dame’s only “off-campus” residence hall. Okay, you probably still can’t locate Carroll on a campus map, but for me and other Vermin, sand volleyball is as integral to the Carroll experience as Carroll Christmas and biking.

My first exposure came hours after I initially walked onto Far Quad. Before I had even transformed my room into a livable space, I heard fierce shouts coming from Carroll’s expansive front lawn. I observed a band of shirtless upperclassmen engaged in an intense game of sand volleyball, replete with digs, kills and many spikes.

As someone whose volleyball experience was limited to high school gym class, I was slightly intimidated, and took a few weeks to actually wander onto the court. Minutes into my first game, I discovered I was competent enough to hit the ball over the net, but more importantly, I found I was really enjoying myself. So, one game turned into two, and two turned into a streak of multiple contests.

After trying to discover the root of my volleyball fever, I came to an important conclusion: Playing sand volleyball allowed me to discover the famed sense of community fostered by Notre Dame’s residence halls, something I thought only existed in guidebooks. On the volleyball court, I was viewed not as a nameless freshman, but as an equal contributor to the team’s success.

Thus, I relished earning compliments from my fellow Carroll residents when I made a rare highlight, or lifting another’s spirits up when they made a mistake. Working toward a common goal helped break down barriers to conversation in the awkward first month, allowing me to more easily meet people.

Additionally, sand volleyball represents the perfect escape from conflicting pressures in the life of a Notre Dame student. After a stressful week, nothing is more soothing than escaping the bustle of campus and enjoying a nice match on a sunny day. Notre Dame may be the opposite of a warm-weather school, but it’s easy to forget that when I’m playing beach volleyball, listening to the booming music and enjoying views of the Golden Dome.

Several months into my Notre Dame experience, I finally consider myself a Carroll sand volleyball junkie. I know all the intricacies of “Carroll rules,” rules that allow players to go over the net in pursuit of the ball and are the reasons why the Carroll volleyball net resembles a slice of Swiss cheese. I have taken the court in February, nearly catching hypothermia, and have participated in an opening-day ceremony more befitting of the Super Bowl. I even decided to test my skills against other halls in interhall volleyball.

So, with temperatures in South Bend becoming more bearable, I invite everyone to make their way to Carroll and participate in a fine Notre Dame tradition. Just don’t complain when we make you play Carroll rules.