Yeadon finds balance at Notre Dame
Hayden Adams | Thursday, September 6, 2018
“I can honestly say I can’t think of a better place that just has the balance of everything I ever wanted,” Jemma Yeadon said of Notre Dame.
The junior outside hitter returns from a season in which she led the team in kills by a very comfortable margin. She hopes to eclipse the success of last season’s team, which was eliminated in the first round of the NCAA tournament by Western Kentucky. The Irish will meet the Lady Toppers for the first time this Friday since that season-ending loss.
“I think it’s in the back of our heads, of course,” Yeadon said of the loss. “But, the most important thing is we play Notre Dame volleyball. It doesn’t matter who our opponent is, where we’re playing them, we play Notre Dame volleyball and we hold ourselves to Notre Dame standards.”
Those standards are intentionally set high.
“Our coaches say all the time that ‘we train so much better than so many other schools.’ We’re up almost every morning at 7 a.m. morning practice and then we have afternoon practice,” Yeadon said.
The coaching staff is now helmed by head coach Mike Johnson, replacing Jim McLaughlin who is stepping down due to health issues. McLaughlin, who served as the head coach of the University of Washington for 14 years, coming to Notre Dame during Yeadon’s senior year, played a big role in Yeadon’s, a native of Mercer Island, Washington, path to Notre Dame.
“I was always at Washington games, always going to Washington camps, so Jim [McLaughlin] was definitely a big influence on my decision to come here.” said Yeadon. “[He] had been recruiting me at a young age at Washington. When I found out he was coming to ND that definitely piqued my interest for Notre Dame.”
However, the neuroscience and behavior major said the deciding factor for her was the holistic approach Notre Dame offers.
“What really sealed the deal was when I came on campus and I just realized how special of a place Notre Dame was,” she said.
“[Searching for a] balance of both athletics and academics and I don’t think you can have bigger academics and bigger athletics than anywhere else [but] at Notre Dame,” she said.
Despite the loss of one of her earliest role models, Yeadon has faith in the current roster and coaches.
“We have a great coaching staff…I definitely think we have a special group of girls,” she said. “I think the freshman that came in this year just, like, upped the ante on our team. I think they each bring something special to the core. I have nothing but high hopes for us.”
One of those freshmen is setter Zoe Nunez, who is currently leading the team in assists, with a staggering 156 through five games, with more than her fair share coming courtesy of Yeadon. Despite her primary offensive role, Yeadon still defers to her teammates for her success.
“Zoe is an amazing setter and she can locate the ball so well, and I think I just feed off of that,” she said. “We have Ryann DeJarld in the back. They make it easy for me.”
It’s no surprise she places such an emphasis on those around her, as the people she has played with have made a huge impact on her development.
“I first started playing volleyball in the second grade when my older sister decided to try out for the team and I decided to follow suit because she was doing it,” Yeadon said.
One of her favorite memories is posting a 24-and-1 record her freshman year of high school while on the varsity team with her older sister, a senior at the time.
The only game that rivals the memory of that season was a game against Duke in her first year as part of the Irish. Reeling from a 7-25 record the previous season, the 3-1 win over the Blue Devils marked the best start for their best start since 2005. Yeadon recorded a team-leading 18 kills.
“That was, I think, like one of the most kinda hyped games that I think we’ve had at Notre Dame,” she said. “That was the specific game for me that I think I’ll remember forever.”
The Irish (4-1) come off a tough loss at No. 19 Purdue (5-0) but are ready to bounce back.
“We definitely didn’t handle business the way we needed to,” Yeadon said. “But, the mentality after a loss is just to get better; after a win its just to get better. That’s something that our coach stresses a lot, whether you win or you lose you still have things to get better on.”
As the Irish prepare to face the team that ended their season last year, Yeadon believes they are prepared for the challenge.
“We put in the work, we put in the extra hours,” she said.
Now, all those extra hours and high Notre Dame standards are primed to yield success.