Volleyball takes down third top-5 team
A fan printed out the goaugie.com game recap of the Augustana volleyball team’s Sept. 15 win over No. 4 Southwest Minnesota State.
The article’s headline read, “No. 20 Augustana volleyball upsets No. 4 Southwest Minnesota State to open NSIC play.”
The fan gave the article to head coach Dan Meske, who brought it to his team with a question.
“What’s wrong with this headline?” he asked.
“The word ‘upset,’” the team responded.
Meske doesn’t like that word, but the way his team has been playing, he might have to get used to it.
The Vikings came back from a one-set deficit twice to beat the Mustangs on the road in five sets before defeating USF at home two days later. The polls then refreshed, and a different NSIC team, Wayne State, had claimed the No. 4 ranking. Tuesday, 14th-ranked Augustana beat the Wildcats, 3-1. It was the Vikings’ third win over a top-5 team after beating No. 3 Palm Beach Atlantic Sept. 2.
“We want our girls to not worry about rankings,” Meske said. “Don’t worry about who has how many wins or what not. We don’t want them to ever feel like we got upset or that we’re going to win a game [against a higher-ranked opponent] and that’s an upset. If we play great, we expect great things to happen. There’s no such thing as an upset in our gym.”
But the Vikings don’t get caught up in one win. Meske was already talking about the next game in his post-game talk after beating SMSU. With another highly ranked opponent up Friday, No. 11 Northern State, Augustana has almost certainly moved on again.
“We talk about ourselves like a Corvette with no rear-view mirror,” Meske said. “We’re always gunning it forward.”
That’s not just the case when they win.
Augustana was 7-0 heading into the final match before NSIC play against Winona State at the Augustana Invitational. The Vikings didn’t win a set.
“We use every game as a learning opportunity, win or lose,” junior libero Tahlyr Banks said. “The talk after losing to Winona was the same talk we have after every game. What did we do well and what do we need to work on? It was easy to move on to the next game.”
The Vikings dropped the first set against SMSU then took the second before the Mustangs once again took a set advantage with a 2-1 lead. Augustana was able to come back again, staying perfect in matches decided in five sets.
Banks, recently named the NSIC Defensive Player of the Week, said the team’s three five-set matches played in the opening weekend helped against the Mustangs.
“It was a great start to the season being pushed so much in our opening weekend,” she said. “Other teams haven’t been tested in that way yet.”
Meske implored his team to avoid a letdown against USF.
“I knew we were going to find out how mature our team was,” Meske said. “We were coming off a big win and then playing a really solid cross-town rival that was plenty capable of beating us.”
Augustana took care of business with a 3-1 win over the Cougars.
The NSIC is arguably the best conference in NCAA Division II volleyball. As the Vikings forge ahead in this still-early season, they know there’s work yet to do.
“Staying grounded is a major factor in continuing to have success this year,” Kelsey Kaufmann, a senior middle blocker said. “If we get caught up in the rankings, then we’ll lose sight of our goal and we will drop a match that we shouldn’t.”
Meske stays grounded, too.
“It’s hard to say [if we’re taking the next step],” he said. “Everyone is just so good in the NSIC.”