Young ND team aims to overcome struggles
Rebecca Rogalski | Tuesday, September 9, 2014
The start of the fall semester brings a new season for Notre Dame, and along with that come new players and talents. This year, the Irish welcomed six freshmen to their squad from all over the country — representing California, Indiana, Kansas and Ohio — and all over the court, with nearly every position represented.
The beginning of the season has not been an easy one for the Irish. Prior to the season’s start, senior outside hitter and honorable mention All American Toni Alugbue suffered a torn ACL and was ruled out for the remainder of the season, while an ankle injury to graduate student outside hitter Nicole Smith left her out two games in the Golden Dome Invitational this past weekend.
As a result of these injuries, almost all of the Irish freshmen have received a significant amount of playing time. Freshmen libero Natalie Johnson, outside hitter Sydney Kuhn and middle blocker Sam Fry have gained some of the most experience early on this season, with all three of players earning starting positions in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge and the most recent Golden Dome Invitational.
“It has been a great experience so far,” Johnson said. “The upperclassmen have really helped us along with what we need to know in order to play at the college level. I think the supportive environment of the entire team has really helped us and pushed us to play at our best.”
Kuhn added that because there are so many freshmen on the team this year, the upperclassmen have really stepped it up to teach the girls exactly what needs to be done in a short period of time. Fry also said how transitioning into collegiate play has been made a lot easier with the advice and guidance of each of her teammates.
“I feel like there is a lot of support on this team, and that support really helps us overcome our nerves,” Fry said. “Being freshmen, we are new, and it can be kind of nerve-wracking, but the best advice I got from a teammate is that it is the same game we have been playing all our lives — just a different gym, different jersey.”
Despite successfully integrating the freshmen to the squad, the Irish have struggled early on in the season, going 0-5 in their first games. However, the team’s youngest players said they are confident this drought will soon be over.
“I know these first sets of games have been difficult, but I believe that it will come together eventually,” Kuhn said. “We all know that and know that it takes a little bit of time because there are so many new freshmen. But I think when it clicks, it is really going to click, and hopefully that will be sooner rather than later.”
Fry said she believes it is just a matter of time, but it will be sooner rather than later that the team becomes dominant on the court.
“We are still getting a feel for playing next to each other, and that has definitely been a huge factor this year,” Johnson added. “I think the more reps we put in and the more time we spend working together, the better we’ll get, so we just have to keep working and kind of break down step by step how we can improve as a team.”
Johnson, Fry, Kuhn and the rest of the Irish next hit the court to take on TCU on Friday. The game will open the weekend for Notre Dame at the Shamrock Invitational at Purcell Pavilion.