Notre Dame Stars Ready To Help Irish Take The Next Step
Abby Sweet and Alexis Holloway aren't just two of Notre Dame's most veteran players entering the 2022 season. They are also two of the best Irish players the program has ever had.
And both Sweet and Holloway, who are both now graduate students at Notre Dame, are ready to help the Fighting Irish reach new heights this spring.
On offense, Sweet had the best season of her career in 2021. She led the ACC in batting average at .445 and was the second-toughest player to strike out in the conference, averaging 15.9 at-bats for every strikeout. She credits expanding her use of watching game film and having the mentality of getting on base for her success last spring.
"Last year, I think what led to that success was just taking a deeper dive into watching film," Sweet said. "In my previous years, I had watched film, but I never watched it as much as I did (last year) and as in-depth as I did. This past year, watching film on our opponents, and also on myself (helped me) zone in on what pitches I hit well and what pitches I may not hit as well."
While Sweet led the offense, Holloway was a stalwart for the Fighting Irish in the circle. She posted a 14-6 record with a 2.79 ERA and struck out 111 batters. Her success in the circle is in large part due to her wanting to win for the program.
"I want to come out every day and do my best for the girls and for our coaches, and for this university because it just holds such a special place in my heart," Holloway said.
Throughout their careers, playing for head coach Deanna Gumpf has helped both Sweet and Holloway develop as players and as women off the field. Sweet said she's mesmerized whenever Gumpf talks and wants to soak in everything she has to say. And there's one piece of advice from Gumpf that is always with Sweet.
"As a leader, you obviously try and get everyone on your bus, everyone on the same wavelength. You want to push everyone to be their best," Sweet said. "But, really, in reality, if there's a few people or some people that aren't really coming along, you can't really waste your energy on that."
Both Holloway and Sweet are two of nine players in the program's 30 years to be named team captains for more than one season, an honor that is very important to them. As team captains, they've used the lessons they've learned to help Notre Dame's younger players develop and get used to all aspects of college softball.
"As older girls on the team, since day one when we stepped into the leadership role, we wanted to create a culture to help our younger girls, particularly the freshmen coming in," Holloway said. "We all know it's a tough transition into college. We've all been through it. We knew what was helpful to us, and we had some ideas on how we wanted to make that transition a little bit easier (for them)."
Over the last few seasons, Notre Dame has been on the cusp of breaking through in the postseason after competing in the now–wildly competitive ACC. Last year, Florida State was the national runner-up, and Clemson and Duke emerged as the ACC's regular season and tournament champions, respectively, while Notre Dame finished in fifth place in the regular season, but came within one win of the program's first super regional appearance.
"I think the key to ACC success is getting those younger players experience early on," Sweet said. "So when we come to those big games, those big ACC moments, we're prepared, we're ready to go, and we do a ton of challenges throughout practices weekly that I think kind of mimic the pressure situations of ACC play."
This spring, both Holloway and Sweet want to finish their college softball careers on top of the ACC and help Notre Dame finally break through and advance to super regionals.
"My goals align with the team's goals," Holloway said. "We want to be the first team that goes to supers. It's as simple as that. Anything that any of us can do to contribute to that is what we're going to do."