Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 9, 2019

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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50 NOV. 9, 2019 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED ND SPORTS BY TODD D. BURLAGE N otre Dame head volleyball coach Mike Johnson references an Albert Einstein quote when he's asked about the recruitment of his star sophomore right side hitter, Sydney Bent. "Coincidence is God's way of re- maining anonymous," Johnson said. And what a strange set of circum- stances it took to bring coach, player and school together. The story begins in 2017 at an elite volleyball tournament in South Flor- ida. That's where Bent coincidentally caught the eye of then-Irish head coach Jim McLaughlin, who was there re- searching another prospective recruit. These high-profile volleyball events include hundreds of players of all ages, from all regions and of all skill levels. The bigger gatherings are held in convention centers and hundreds of courts cover thousands of square feet. Eventually lost in a mob of crowd and players, the only information McLaughlin gleaned about Bent was the "1BVA" she wore on her jersey — no last name, no team name. Johnson, who was serving as McLaughlin's associate head coach at Notre Dame, got word about Bent and went on a fact-finding mission. "We couldn't find her," Johnson re- called. "We spent a lot of time looking, but we didn't yet know who she was." Coincidence, fate and Einstein col- lided a few months later at a tourna- ment in Chicago when Johnson and Bent serendipitously crossed paths in an arena hallway. The "1BVA" was the giveaway. Johnson laughs now when he shares the surveillance work he used to figure out which one of the 100-plus courts at the arena Bent was playing on. "I kind of gave her a little distance, so I didn't stalk her completely," he said. "I followed her and I found her." A native of Miami Shores, Fla., Bent was heavily recruited out of Ransom Everglades School, but was still un- committed when she met Johnson in Chicago, a meeting that brought a scholarship offer and eventually her place as one of the best young college players in the country. "Whenever I tell people the story of how we met," Bent said, "they always say, 'I guess it was meant to be.'" Along with her two teammates — Charley Niego and Zoe Nunez — Bent was named to the 2018 All-ACC Freshman team after last season and then became a 2019 Preseason All- ACC Team honoree before this year. "I always loved Notre Dame," said Bent, who ranks in the top three on the Irish in kills, digs and total points, "but I was never sure if I was good enough to come here. I'm so proud and happy that I attend here." Bent was also a member of the 2018 All-ACC Academic Team and is a prime reason the youthful Irish are enjoying their best ACC season since joining the league in 2013. "Sid is a complete volleyball player," Johnson said. "She creates a mismatch for a lot of people because of the kind of velocity and the arse- nal of shots she's developed." Einstein might even agree. ✦ HOCKEY (4-0-0 OVERALL, 0-0-0 BIG TEN) The No. 5 Irish extended their season-opening win streak to four with a pair of victories versus Lake Superior State Oct. 25-26. The Irish posted a 5-2 win in the opener before completing the sweep with a 6-4 triumph. Notre Dame opens Big Ten play at Minnesota Nov. 1-2 and then returns home to face Ohio State Nov. 8-9. MEN'S SOCCER (8-6-1 OVERALL, 2-5-0 ACC) Notre Dame registered a 1-0 upset victory at No. 2 Wake Forest Oct. 26, marking the highest ranked opponent it had defeated since knocking off the No. 1 Demon Deacons on the road in the semifinals of the ACC Championship on Nov. 11, 2015. The Irish finished the regular season by hosting Pittsburgh Nov. 1. The ACC Championship begins with first-round games at campus sites Nov. 5-6. WOMEN'S SOCCER (10-6-2 OVERALL, 4-4-2 ACC) The Irish suffered a 3-0 setback at North Carolina State Oct. 27, but re- bounded to edge Wake Forest 3-2 in overtime with an own goal in the 110th minute in their regular-season finale Oct. 31. The victory versus the Demon Deacons gave Notre Dame the eighth and final seed in the ACC Championship. The Irish earned the right to travel to Chapel Hill, N.C., and face regular-season champion and top-seeded North Carolina Nov. 3. MEN'S SWIMMING & DIVING (2-2 OVERALL, 1-0 ACC) No. 18 Notre Dame cruised past Purdue 181-119 Oct. 25 in West Lafayette, Ind. Sophomore Zach Yeadon led the way with three victories. He captured the 100 and 200 freestyle races, and was part of the winning 400 freestyle relay. The Irish traveled to Louisville for an ACC dual meet Nov. 1. WOMEN'S SWIMMING & DIVING (2-2 OVERALL, 1-0 ACC) The No. 23 Irish topped Purdue 168-132 Oct. 25 in West Lafayette, Ind. Senior Abbie Dolan (200 and 500 freestyle) and freshman Coleen Gillilan (100 and 200 butterfly, plus 200 individual medley) combined for five individual wins, and were both part of Notre Dame's victorious 200 medley relay. Notre Dame hit the road for an ACC dual meet against Louisville Nov. 1. VOLLEYBALL (15-5 OVERALL, 8-2 ACC) Notre Dame fell 3-0 to Pittsburgh Oct. 25, but bounced back with a 3-0 defeat of Virginia Oct. 27. Next up for the Irish were road matches at Syracuse Nov. 1 and Boston College Nov. 3. — Steve Downey Irish Roundup Fate, Fortune And Timing Brought Volleyball's Sydney Bent To Notre Dame Bent — a sophomore right side hitter from Miami Shores, Fla. — ranks in the top three on the Irish in kills, digs and total points. PHOTO COURTESY FIGHTING IRISH MEDIA

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