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ND Volleyball: Houser determined to lead

Laura Coletti | Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Despite being named an All-Big East preseason selection, sophomore opposite side hitter Jeni Houser is focused on bigger things – much bigger things.

“To be honest, those awards don’t really mean anything to me,” Houser said. “It’s a team effort and in order to win, it takes everyone on the court, and sidelines, and pushing each other during practice to make teammates better. It’s a constant learning experience.”

Houser has already gone through a big learning experience herself. Coming in as a freshman last season, she was focused and determined to contribute to the squad. Soon enough, she found herself in the starting lineup.

“It was a really exciting experience,” she said. “I came in wanting to focus on working hard and making my teammates better, and I think through playing I got a lot of experience and I have a better understanding of the game. It’s quicker than high school. I’ve improved my overall skills as a player and as a leader on the court.”

Playing for Notre Dame is something Houser had been anticipating since her sophomore year of high school, when Notre Dame began recruiting her. She chose Notre Dame not only for the volleyball program, but because of the well-rounded experience she would receive. She is particularly excited for a trip to Italy the team has planned for next summer.

“I’ve talked to girlfriends who play for other schools, and none of them have experiences like the ones I have here,” Houser said.

Irish coach Debbie Brown is looking for Houser to be a leader both on and off the court this season. Houser is hoping her intense play will serve as an example for her team. Houser will also try to set an example by once again filling up the stat sheet. Last year, she led the Irish in kills with 320. She also contributed 79 digs and 70 blocks.

“[Coach Brown] is looking for me to make an impact on the court, and get everyone fired up,” she said. “I bring a lot of energy and confidence when I play. I try to get everyone to have fun and stay relaxed on the court. I’m really vocal and energetic, and I’m usually pretty confident and composed.”

Notre Dame will look for Houser to have a big performance this Friday when the Irish play the defending national champions, UCLA. Houser said the Irish have been preparing for UCLA as if they were preparing for any other team.

“We’ve been coming into practice and not thinking about it,” she said. “It’s just another name on a jersey and we have to have fun and play like we always play. We can’t go in with the mindset, ‘Oh they’re better than us’. We’re just getting our reps in and getting better every day.”

The Irish and the Bruins play Aug. 24 at 5:30 p.m. in Lincoln, Neb.

Contact Laura Coletti at [email protected]