Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 10, 2022*

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

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Page 48 of 55 SEPT. 10, 2022 49 BY TODD D. BURLAGE N otre Dame junior Hattie Mon- son found herself last De- cember in an uncomfortable and uncertain situation that no stu- dent-athlete wants to be in. Shortly after a disappointing 2021 volleyball season that ended with a 13-15 overall record, Irish head coach Mike Johnson was fired after four seasons. And with Johnson's departure came a six-week coaching search that left the entire program in limbo, lasting nearly into start of the 2022 spring semester. "It was very, very, very stressful," Monson recalled. "Every single day I was just wondering what my fu- ture was going to hold." Keeping her options open, Mon- son wisely put her name into the NCAA transfer portal after Johnson's dismissal. The transfer portal allows student- athletes to correspond with coaches from other schools about a relocation option. And for Monson, it was also a chance to protect her self-interest dur- ing the Notre Dame coaching search. And given that Monson led Notre Dame with 407 digs as sophomore in 2021 and finished second on the team with 89 assists and 21 service aces, her services as a defensive specialist/libero were in high demand. "A lot of those schools wanted an- swers quickly because they wanted me to be enrolled in the spring," Monson explained. "But I wanted to wait be- cause I knew Notre Dame could still be the place for me with the right coach." So while many of her teammates didn't wait around and transferred, Monson stuck it out. A two-time ACC All-Academic hon- oree in 2020 and 2021, and an All-ACC Freshman team selection in 2020, the Chicagoland native looked beyond on- court success. "The reason I came to Notre Dame in the first place was because I value edu- cation," Monson said. "So it would be dumb for me to pass that up just because of volleyball. I knew it was the right combination here, so it would be perfect for me to stay. At least I was hoping so." Monson's commitment, trust and pa- tience paid off. Barely a week before the spring se- mester began at Notre Dame, director of athletics Jack Swarbrick introduced renowned volleyball player, coach and broadcaster Salima Rockwell as the new Irish head coach. "Thank God that I waited," Monson said with a sigh. "[Rockwell] is awe- some, everything I could've asked for." As a player, Rockwell was a three-time All-American as a set- ter for Penn State from 1991-94 and played on the U.S. National Team from 1995-99. And as an assistant coach, Rockwell helped win three national championships at her alma mater and another at Texas. "[Rockwell] has this way about her where she is so sweet and genu- ine but she knows how to get things done," Monson said. "I've never had a coach who cares as much as she does about my well-being, me as a person. But also, combining all of that to make me the best volley- ball player that I can be." And the respect is mutual. "I was ecstatic when Hattie de- cided to stay," Rockwell said. "She's such a great player, and she brings a leadership and steadiness we need." Given the abrupt coaching change and the heavy roster turnover from this time last year, expectations in 2022 for Fighting Irish volleyball are tempered. But through the first weekend of play Aug. 26-28 at the 2022 Irish Invitational, Monson said her team left the event en- couraged by its 1-2 performance. "We played some really good teams. And given the limited time we've all been together, we're not so bad after all," Monson said. "I'm really excited about what we can do." ✦ Tough Decision Paying Off For Volleyball's Hattie Monson After leading Notre Dame with 407 digs as sophomore in 2021, Monson contemplated transferring during the program's postsea- son search for a new head coach. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS ND SPORTS Irish Roundup Through Sept. 1 MEN'S SOCCER (1-1 OVERALL, 0-0 ACC) Notre Dame opened the season with a 3-1 home loss to Seattle Aug. 25 … The Irish bounced back with 3-2 win at Michigan State Aug. 29 … Next up for the Fighting Irish are contests at Indiana Sept. 3 and home versus DePaul Sept. 6. WOMEN'S SOCCER (5-0 OVERALL, 0-0 ACC) The Fighting Irish charged out of the gates with four straight shutout victories, with home triumphs over Marquette (3-0) Aug. 18, Western Michigan (2-0) Aug. 21 and Illinois (4-0) Aug. 28, sandwiched around a road win at St. Louis (2-0) Aug. 25 … The No. 16-ranked Irish then defeated No. 22 Wisconsin 4-1 at home Sept. 1 … Notre Dame will play at Indiana Sept. 4 and at Purdue Sept. 8. VOLLEYBALL (1-2 OVERALL, 0-0 ACC) Notre Dame started the season with the Irish Invitational Aug. 26-28, falling to Texas Tech (3-1) and Mississippi State (3-0) before rebounding with a victory vs. Milwaukee (3-2) … The Irish will head to California for the Long Beach State Tournament, with matches scheduled against Boise State Sept. 2 and the host school Sept. 3. — Steve Downey

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