Netters have high hopes for 2000
By TIM CASEY
Assistant Sports Editor
When coach Debbie Brown first saw freshmen Jessica and Kristen Kinder on a volleyball court, she knew the twins from Fresno, Calif., would be a welcome addition to an already talented Irish squad.
There was only one problem: recognizing who was Jessica and who was Kristen.
"They had different numbers," Brown said. "That's how I told them apart."
Brown still does not always get their names right but she has continued to notice the twins' talent.
The Kinders are joined by middle blockers Kim Fletcher and Katherine Neff and walk-on Christa Moen in the volleyball Class of 2004. The five freshmen, who began practice on August 9, comprise one-third of the team's roster.
"They're blending in well," Brown said. "They'll all have a possibility to contribute this year."
Those are strong words for a team returning five of six starters. A year ago, Notre Dame finished at 20-9 overall including a 11-0 Big East mark. Ohio State spoiled the season in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, defeating the Irish in four sets.
Preseason Big East Player of the Year Denise Boylan will lead the Irish. The senior setter earned first-team All-Big East honors last season after ranking first on the team with 1,132 assists and 35 aces. Classmate Christi Gorton joins Boylan on the preseason first-team all-conference team. Gorton led the Irish with 333 kills and 201 digs as a junior.
Other returnees include junior Marcie Bomhack, who started 27 of 29 matches last season, junior Kristy Kreher, a 1999 second-team All-Big East selection and sophomore Keara Coughlin.
The lone graduating starter was Mary Leffers, the 1999 Big East Player of the Year.
"Last year was a bit disappointing," Boylan said of her team who qualified for their eight straight NCAA tournament."We had some good moments but that loss (to Ohio State) was tough."
Though they have yet to wear the Blue and Gold, the freshmen are no strangers to high-level volleyball. Fletcher and Neff, teammates on the St. Louis Elite club team, bring depth at middle blocker. Fletcher, who attended Nerinx High School near St. Louis, was a two-time USA Volleyball All-American while the 6-foot-4 Neff earned All-State honors as a junior and senior at Cor Jesu Academy. Neff owns Missouri state records for total games (317) and matches (144) played in a career.
Then there's the twins. Jessica, an outside hitter and Kristen, a setter, were both named All-Americans while leading their club team, Fresno Red to national prominence and their high school, Bullard High to a No.11 national ranking in 1999.
"They're both good all-around players," Brown said. "They're strong, quick and competitive."
All Sports Stories for Saturday, August 19, 2000