DeJarld finds her place on Irish squad
Elizabeth Greason | Thursday, September 15, 2016
Ryann DeJarld was born and bred to be a great volleyball player.
Since joining the Irish last season, DeJarld, a sophomore libero, has become a leader and a force to be reckoned with on the court. In her freshman season, DeJarld racked up a team high 489 digs and tied the team high with 29 service aces. This comes as no surprise, based on DeJarld’s strong background in the sport.
“I guess I’m kind of a different case than everyone else,” DeJarld said. “I grew up totally playing volleyball since I was born because my mom is a volleyball coach at Mother McAuley in Chicago. She has always been around the sport; she played for the University of Iowa. So, ever since a really young age, my sister and I, we grew up being pepper partners and kind of just being in the gym and going downstate for state tournament rounds with my mom’s team. Just getting to grow up around the sport and be gym rats and have access to that high school gym really helped us get extra reps and just become good volleyball players.”
From the moment DeJarld stepped on the court at Notre Dame, she was expected to do big things. She took on the role of starting libero early in her collegiate career, and while some players may have cracked under the pressure, DeJarld thrived.
“It was a pretty swift transition for me, in regards to high-pressure situations,” DeJarld said. “I was lucky enough to be in a really competitive program in high school, which, not a lot of people get that experience, but it’s definitely a lot more work at Notre Dame.”
DeJarld’s Notre Dame volleyball career hasn’t been exactly what she expected when she committed to play for the Irish. At the time, the Irish were being coached by Debbie Brown, but current Notre Dame head coach Jim McLaughlin took over the head coaching job before the start of DeJarld’s freshman year. DeJarld took on the challenge of rebuilding the program and marking the start of a new era under McLaughlin by the horns and is excited to be a part of something new.
“I’m really lucky to have Jim and [associate head coach] Mike [Johnson] and [assistant coach] Katie [Wilson] and the whole staff as coaches,” DeJarld said. “It was a really smooth transition. Obviously, there’s always some questions and question marks about what’s going to happen when you’re coming in kind of blinded about the program. But it could not have worked out better that they took over my freshman year, so I began here with them and I will finish here with them. It’s kind of a blessing.”
Another source for the change in pace the Irish have seen so far this year is DeJarld’s partnership with junior transfer student and setter Caroline Holt. Holt and DeJarld, as setter and libero, must work in tandem constantly. The team’s success on any given point relies on their ability to be consistent and to communicate well. DeJarld is fully aware of this and feels that, although this is Holt’s first season with the Irish, she has made an immediate impact on the team.
“Me and Holt are building really good communication skills, which is really important obviously,” DeJarld said. “It’s sort of like a battery role, like a catcher and a pitcher. I’m passing to her and she relies on me and I rely on her to do her job if I’m getting her a good pass. So, I think our relationship is really important for the team and I absolutely love playing with Caroline. I think she’s really — she has a contagious presence on the court for sure. She’s been great on her team so far.”
While DeJarld is conscious of the fact that her relationship with her setter is an important one, she is also aware to the fact that, as the libero, she is looked to as a leader on the team, both on and off the court.
“It’s definitely something that I had to take head on, just, in regards to, you have to be a very consistent player to be a libero,” DeJarld said. “[Libero is] more of a backbone position than it is a changing factor. You should always be consistent, steady and be keeping everyone settled down and ready to play. So I definitely think the more consistent I am, the more I am helping the team and the more I can be a leader for them.”
The Chicago native’s impact on the team has not gone unnoticed. In Notre Dame’s three tournaments so far, DeJarld has been selected as MVP of the Art Carmichael Invitational last weekend and made the all-tournament team for the Shamrock Invitational at Notre Dame.
“I guess I was a little surprised, just because liberos usually don’t get recognized like that,” DeJarld said. “It’s just affirmation that each touch and each play, I hopefully am getting better and better. And I guess, being better for my team is what my goal is.”
While bettering herself for the team may be DeJarld’s personal goal, she shares her teammates’ lofty goals for the squad this season and down the road, and she knows what changes she will need to make in order for those goals to be achieved.
“I guess one of my biggest motivations is just to be in a Final Four, be in a championship,” DeJarld said. “You know, growing up around volleyball so much, I’m one of the few on my team who just grew up watching all these college matches and going to college matches. And that’s always been the dream for me, is to just make it that far. So I just have to go into every practice knowing that that’s the end goal in mind … perfecting skills and really buckling down on mechanics are that I didn’t really think about; I kind of just thought about playing and going all out. But there’s a lot of important things that you have to consider to be, to play volleyball the right way, like we do here.”
However, while most of the team have the ACC championship trophy in mind as an ultimate goal, DeJarld has her sights set on a different match this season. Ryann’s sister Jane, who is younger than her by one year, is starting her freshman season at ACC rival Boston College as a setter. DeJarld is looking forward to being pitted against her family member and former teammate when the Irish face off against the Eagles later in the season.
“Well, we’ve talked about this for a couple years now, just because [Jane has] been committed for so long,” DeJarld said, laughingly. “My parents actually said, ‘We will root for the team with whoever is starting,’ but I think that was a joke. I think they’re going to root for us both equally and probably not pick favorites. But I’m still hoping to win.”