Nancy Kane grew up loving the University of Notre Dame (ND).
Heading into her freshman season as a walk-on for the Fighting Irish women’s volleyball team, she was guaranteed nothing in terms of playing time.
She had to earn it.
Playing a supporting role off the bench for ND, Kane appeared in 39 sets, more than enough to be named to the ND Monogram Club as a freshman.
Club members receive the iconic ND letterman’s jacket.
“I’m so grateful for the freshman year I had,” Kane said. “It was really cool to get the monogram, especially in my family. I grew up going to ND sporting events, some of my favorite athletes played here, so it was always a dream of mine to get it.”
As for actually receiving the ND letterman’s jacket, Kane will have to wait. The ceremony was originally scheduled for April 22 but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic to spring 2021.
In the meantime, she’s back in South Bend, Ind., prepping for, hopefully, a busy fall season with the Fighting Irish.
Kane, a 5’11” sophomore setter, reported to campus for voluntary workouts in early June. But like student-athletes returning to campus across all sports, there were some twists.
Athletes who drove to school were required to quarantine for three days. Those who flew in were quarantined for seven days. All athletes were required to undergo a COVID-19 test before working out with the team.
“Everybody had to take the test and get a physical. Every day at practice, we’re taking temperature checks and doing workouts in facemasks,” Kane said. “We’re hopeful to have a fall season.”
As for practicing while wearing a mask, she said everyone is adjusting.
“It’s difficult with the workouts. Breathing can be kind of hard,” Kane said. “We take a lot of breaks, more water breaks, stuff like that. It’s the thing you have to do to play the sport you love.”
The team does much of its conditioning outdoors, allowing the players to work out without wearing the masks.
To attend the workouts, team members are living off-campus in a hotel. Each player has her own room, and players are encouraged to stay separated from each other.
Throughout the quarantine this spring and into the summer, Kane has done her best to stay positive and just keep working.
“We’re living in a crazy world right now,” Kane said. “I’m handling it OK. I’ve got a great support system with my coaches, teammates, family and friends. You try to look at the bright side of life. I tried to embrace it and enjoy the time with my family.”
With no gyms open during the quarantine, Kane worked out on her own, practiced with her older brother, Johnny, a senior at Texas A&M, watched some Netflix, read some and even painted.
Then, she was finally able to get back to work in a gym.
“It was definitely tough getting back in the gym. It was rough,” Kane said with a laugh. “You pick things up, and it got better every day.”
As a freshman, Kane came off the bench as a serve specialist, then played back-row defense for a middle blocker.
Official fall practices with coaches began July 31 on campus. Kane hopes to take another step forward as a sophomore and carve out even more playing time with the Fighting Irish.
“You’re always working to play and develop more skills,” Kane said. “Last year helped though because I was watching film more and learning the game from a different starting point. You learn more about tendencies and situations. You learn the game more, and you get better.”