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


ND Volleyball

Ryann DeJarld’s love for the sport motivates her tremendous career

| Thursday, December 6, 2018

From the time Ryann DeJarld first stepped on the court at Purcell Pavilion, a freshman starter, it was clear she was a special talent.

She led the team in digs and digs per set with 404 and 4.04, respectively, while also tying the team high in service aces with 29 on the season. But DeJarld was just getting started. She was fairly new to the position and still had plenty to learn.

Michelle Mehelas | The Observer

Fast-forward four years, and the senior’s collegiate volleyball career is over. It ends with a 67-57 record, with the Irish going 60-32 after a remarkable turnaround during her sophomore campaign. She has led the Irish to a NCAA tournament berth and helped the squad finish near the top of the ever-competitive ACC each of the last three seasons, and she has been the backbone of a team that took down Louisville in a five-set thriller on Senior Night. But individually, DeJarld has earned one of the most prestigious awards in the conference a defensive player can achieve: ACC Defensive Player of the Year.

The Chicago native finished the 2018 season with 532 digs and 5.02 digs per set, both of which led the conference, while also notching 34 service aces. She was named a Second Team All-ACC representative and served as Notre Dame’s co-captain, along with senior outside hitter Rebecca Nunge.

Volleyball runs in DeJarld’s blood. The self-proclaimed gym rat grew up around the sport, thanks to her mother’s role as the head coach of the volleyball team at Mother McCauley High School on the South Side of Chicago.

“It was really easy for me to fall in love with the sport of volleyball because I was always around it all the time even as a young kid and I would say even at the age of four or five I would be you know running around the gym while she had practice just hitting the ball against the wall and running and chasing it and coming back and then as I got older it was nice to have my sister, is just 17 months younger than me,” DeJarld said. “We were starting to pepper with each other and you know we always were willing to sign up for all the camps and participate in our activities and going downstate to Illinois State for the state semifinals and finals with my mom’s team because they’re pretty good. Those are memories that I will always have just painting my face and getting to see those girls. They were my role models growing up just watching volleyball, college volleyball all the time on TV.”

DeJarld’s younger sister Jane is a junior at Boston College and is the starting setter for the Eagles. The DeJarld sisters have gone head-to-head four times in the past three seasons, but Ryann has only dropped one set to her sister, with the Irish coming out on top on each occasion.

But while volleyball may course through DeJarld’s veins, being a libero wasn’t always the plan. DeJarld grew up an outside hitter, and took on the role of libero as she prepared for college, looking to hone her already-strong passing skills and focus in on a position she really enjoyed.

“Honing in on my defensive skills in college was something that, kind of, it opened me up to new opportunities as a libero I think but it’s definitely a different position than playing outside hitter. You have to be much more of a kind of a backbone player,” DeJarld said.  “… I think you see a little bit more and you know you have to you have to be a leader because you’re controlling sort of the passing game. You start to pick up on their serving tactics and their serving strategies to something that I felt especially in the last couple years was something that I was able to kind of hone in on that skill and be able to coach as many balls as I could because the goal of the libero and then just defensively just, you know, just always going all out on defense and making that one play. I think making a big play on defense is, at times, is even more rewarding than getting a kill or a block on offense to me just because it’s fun. I don’t know, I just don’t get a lot of the glory but I think that you realize how much more important that you have the back row.”

The ACC is one of the top collegiate volleyball conferences each year, and year after year, the Irish have success on the court defensively against their conference opponents. But DeJarld did not claim her individual skill level as her means to success, instead attributing her stalwart presence in the back row to the hard work her team and her coaches put in, day in and day out.

“I think that these awards are just kind of an extension of our team in general in the way that our defensive system works and how we play together and I think I can give the credit to my coaches there you know they coach our defense just so well especially [Irish head coach] Mike Johnson is our defensive coach last year. … A lot of defense is just understanding your opponent and being able to predict what they are going to do in the moment based on small trends,” DeJarld said. “ … I mean we were we had been the No. 1 defense holding our opponents as well as hitting percentage. I think for three years in a row we were number one in the ACC and you know digs that I’ve gotten and my defensive skill has really been built around our system. And I think that you know these awards are not only a reflection of the work that I’ve put in, but the reflection of the work that our team has put in and our defensive system and the hours that our coaches have done scouting these other teams. So I mean there’s always a really fun thing for me that we were a great defensive team obviously. You always want to be a good defense team. It’s a good thing to be known for.”

Tags: ,

About Elizabeth Greason

Elizabeth is a senior studying civil engineering from New York, NY (yes, the actual city). She is a proud resident assistant in McGlinn Hall and is a die-hard Mets and Giants fan. She is currently serving as assistant managing editor of The Observer and she also has an obsession with golf that is bordering on unhealthy.

Contact Elizabeth