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 Pontiac Notre Dame Prep senior Theresa Carrier spikes the ball over the net Sept. 10 in a match against Bloomfield Hills Marian. At press time, the Fighting Irish were 17-4 overall.

Pontiac Notre Dame Prep senior Theresa Carrier spikes the ball over the net Sept. 10 in a match against Bloomfield Hills Marian. At press time, the Fighting Irish were 17-4 overall.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Notre Dame Prep volleyball winning with ‘rock stars’ on defense

By: Jacob Herbert | Rochester Post | Published September 18, 2019

PONTIAC — With the departure of Maddy Chinn, Natalie Risi and Maria Famularo last season, the Pontiac Notre Dame Prep volleyball team lost a lot of offensive firepower.

Chinn, now playing at Purdue University, won the 2018 Michigan Miss Volleyball award. Risi, now at Ball State University, was a Miss Volleyball finalist. Famularo, who is an assistant coach for the Fighting Irish, was a Division 2 Academic All-State player, an All-Region player and a four-year varsity letter winner at Prep.

The Irish have had to retool and reset their roster this year. However, as their record would indicate, they have found success even after losing three top players.

At press time, Prep was 17-4 overall and was the No. 5 team in the latest Division 2 coaches rankings.

“Our offense will not be what those players brought — they were great ballplayers,” Prep coach Betty Wroubel said. “Our defense is holding us in. They’re the unsung heroes; you don’t really understand how important they are until you see what they do to keep the ball off the floor.”

Leading the defensive charge for the Irish are junior Olivia Kowalkowski and sophomore Josephine Bloom. Wroubel said the pair are “two of the best defenders around.”

With Kowalkowski and Bloom at the forefront, the entire defensive unit is enabling Prep to keep rallies alive long enough for the team to score, whether that be by the opponent’s mistake or their own attacking.

“We have some rock stars on defense,” Wroubel said.

Emily Mohr is a senior who has stepped into a leadership role this year. Mohr said she learned plenty of lessons from the graduated players.

“Some of the tools that I’ve been given have just been to have fun,” Mohr said. “If you want your team to work hard, you have to work 10 times as hard and set the example so the next year’s seniors can also build off of it.”

As the Irish navigate through the season, they are doing so with a team consisting of two freshmen, eight sophomores, one junior and two seniors. Even with the youth at Prep, Wroubel has still had plenty to be impressed with.

“This group works really hard,” the coach said. “It’s probably the most improved team I’ve ever had at this stage in the game. They’re really working hard, trying to compete. They know they have big shoes to fill. We’ve had some pretty elite teams here, and it’s a lot of pressure on them, but they’re handling it like veterans.”

Sophomores Alyssa Borellis and Bianca Giglio have been standout underclassmen this season. Wroubel noted that Borellis is already getting looks from Division 1 colleges, and Giglio has come through with some big hits in key moments.

Last season, the Irish made it to the D-2 state final before falling to Grand Rapids Christian. The hope is that a tough schedule this season gives the team the opportunity to grow together and make a run come playoff time.

“I think overall it’s just to be the best team we can be and make sure we stay as a team,” Mohr said about the team’s goals. “We realize to go to our end goal we want to be at, we have to use each other.”