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Lovely opportunity

Jeff Tully

Some might be surprised to learn former Bellarmine-Jefferson High

girls’ volleyball star Louella Lovely has landed a coaching job at

Notre Dame.

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Coming from a small program to earn a position at a revered high

school like Sherman Oaks Notre Dame would be a big accomplishment for

a Bell-Jeff graduate.

However, the team Lovely will be serving as an assistant coach

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isn’t a few miles west of Burbank. No, she has found a place in South

Bend, Ind. -- not Sherman Oaks -- and has been chosen to help guide

the University of Notre Dame -- probably the best known college in

the nation.

“It’s not by chance that we asked Louella to join our coaching

staff,” said Notre Dame volleyball Coach Debbie Brown, who is

entering her 12th season. “I am very excited about adding her to the

staff and she should help us out in a lot of areas.”

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No novice to collegiate and club volleyball, Lovely brings a

wealth of experience and a desire to teach to her high-level coaching

job.

“This is a great opportunity for me,” Lovely said. “I am just

thankful to be able to work at a college like Notre Dame, and for a

great coach like Debbie.

“I am just excited to get started and help the players as much as

I can.”

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Lovely, 29, will get that chance soon enough, as the Irish open

their preseason practices on Friday.

A setter at Bell-Jeff and at the college level, Brown said

Lovely’s experience at the position will be invaluable to the Irish

players.

“She will be working a lot with our setters, and they really seem

to respond to her,” Brown said. “She will be able to teach the

technical aspect of the position, and that will help us tremendously.

“But more than that, she really knows her volleyball and she has a

real feel and knowledge of the game. She will help us in a number of

areas.”

Brown said one of those areas will be recruiting, as Lovely will

be called on to help bolster the thriving program.

“I like getting out there and dealing with the players,” Lovely

said. “It is a way for me to find out about different players and get

a feel of what’s out there.”

Lovely will be working for a head coach who has built Notre Dame

into a national powerhouse. During her tenure with the Irish, Brown

has accumulated a 276-94 record (.746 winning percentage) and her

teams are usually ranked among the nation’s top squads.

An El Segundo native and former USC star, the former All-American

and Olympian has led the Irish into the national elite, as each of

her Notre Dame teams have captured a conference title and advanced to

postseason play -- including 10 straight NCAA appearances.

The Irish have made a steady climb up the national rankings during

the Brown era, rising as high as fifth in 1995 and sixth in 1996. The

1993 Notre Dame squad came within one match of advancing to the NCAA

semifinals, while the 1994, 1995 and 1997 teams reached the sweet 16.

In 2002, the Irish went 24-7 and 11-2 in the Big East Conference

to capture the championship. The team has won seven regular-season

and seven tournament crowns in its eight years in the conference.

The squad will be led by senior opposite/outside hitter Emily

Loomis and junior middle blocker Lauren Kelbley. Last season, Loomis

led the team with 3.7 kills and 1.9 digs a game. She was named the

Big East Conference Championship’s Outstanding Player.

“We have been able to have some success here at Notre Dame,” Brown

said. “And I think the addition of Louella is only going to help us

get better.”

*

If one thinks Lovely has taken a straight path from Bell-Jeff to

Notre Dame, nothing is farther from the truth. Since graduating in

1992, Lovely has experienced a long and far-from-straight lane to

where she is today.

Lovely began her collegiate career in 1993 at the U.S. Air Force

Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., before moving on to University of

California in 1995.

“Going from Air Force to Cal was a real experience,” Lovely said.

“At Air Force, things were so strict and it was very conservative.

But at Cal, it was just the opposite. It took me some time to get

used to the new environment.”

Although she played for two distinctly different programs, Lovely

found success with the Falcons and Bears. She earned American

Volleyball Coaches Assn. all-region honors in 1994 and 1995, and was

an AVCA All-American at Cal in 1995.

The 1997 season found Lovely at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where

she was a team captain under former Notre Dame assistant coach Steve

Schlick.

“Playing for a few different coaches during my career, I feel I’ve

been able to pick up different things from all of them,” Lovely said.

“I try to take all that I have learned and apply it to my coaching.”

Along with her success on the court, Lovely also thrived in the

classroom. In 1998, she earned the Big West Conference Scholar

Athlete of the Year award and was a two-time Arthur Ashe Jr. Sport

Scholar Award winner in 1997 and 1998. She also earned an NCAA Ethnic

Minority Postgraduate Scholarship in 1999.

With her competitive collegiate career behind her, Lovely went

back to Cal to earn a master’s degree in education.

In her second stint at Cal, Lovely didn’t focus all of her time on

education. She kept her ties with volleyball as a Bears’ assistant

coach in 1998 and 1999. She also coached the Golden Bear Volleyball

club 18-and-under club team.

If that wasn’t enough, Lovely even took some time to work for

Deutsche Bank Securities in the Bay Area.

*

Lovely’s well-traveled collegiate career came about after a fine

stint as a standout player at Bell-Jeff.

Although she first picked up the game while attending St.

Dominic’s Catholic School in Eagle Rock, Lovely didn’t became serious

about the sport until she enrolled at Bell-Jeff in 1988.

Playing outside hitter for the Guards’ freshman team, Lovely made

the switch to setter at the urging of varsity Coach Hal Krug.

The switch -- coupled with experience she received playing for the

Southern California Volleyball Club team -- to the new position

allowed Lovely to become one of the finest players in school history.

She later moved on to play for the Magnum Volleyball Club team.

As a sophomore, Lovely helped Bell-Jeff earn its first CIF

Southern Section playoff berth in five years, as she earned All-San

Fernando Valley League honors. She was also named the team’s most

improved player.

Lovely continued to improve and enjoyed her finest season as a

senior. Under her setting experience, she helped the Guards to an

undefeated (16-0) league season and their first championship. Along

with earning all-league honors, she was also an All-CIF second-team

honoree.

“I give a lot of credit to Coach Krug for helping me improve as a

volleyball player and helping me learn the game,” She said. “He did a

lot for me at Bell-Jeff and it was great playing for him.”

Knowing about her success, and her trek over the years through the

volleyball ranks, no one should now be surprised the talented Lovely

has earned a coveted coaching job at Notre Dame -- the university

that is.


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