Volleyball’s latest opponents keeps the regulars fresh and bench players sharp




Armed with a 16-1 record and its highest ranking since 2008, the Augustana volleyball team has national championship aspirations.

But a group that strives to be the best needs to take care of business against lesser teams.

The sixth-ranked Vikings have had a reprieve over the last two weeks after vaulting to the top of the nation’s best conference. After Augustana beat three top-11 teams in four games last month, its schedule has slowed down a bit.

The Vikings swept each of their last five matches dating back to Sept. 24. The teams they played have a combined record of 21-57, but that’s not to discredit the wins. Teams must take care of business against teams they should beat.

“Our big thing is to have a faceless opponent,” junior libero Tahlyr Banks said. “It doesn’t matter who we are playing. We focus on our side of the court, on the things we can do better. We aren’t worrying about what the other side is going to do but being confident in what we do on our side.”

Playing weaker competition has also afforded Vikings head coach Dan Meske a valuable opportunity to get more women in the game who haven’t played as frequently, as well as tweaking bad habits.

“Our team’s major focus right now is to make sure we are a total team,” Meske said. “We want every player on our roster to be ready to help us attack any opponent on any given night. Our strength is our depth.”

The chance to keep regulars fresh and bench players sharp couldn’t have come at a better time for Meske’s team. Augustana hosts No. 2 Concordia-St. Paul Friday night at the Elmen Center.

Senior middle blocker Kelsey Kaufmann echoes a common sentiment the Vikings have maintained since the start of the season: They aren’t focused on the rankings.

“Every team is going to be difficult and a challenge,” she said. “We try to embrace every game as a challenge and go into it with the same mindset.”

Another thing a championship-caliber team needs to do is act like it belongs with the top teams.

“The big wins are fun and feel good, but a big part of our success comes from moving on so quickly,” Banks said. “We don’t allow ourselves to get caught up in the wins. We celebrate in the locker room and then it’s time to figure out what we can do better for the next game.”

It’s all business, but the Vikings are still finding ways to enjoy themselves.

“This is a really fun team,” Meske said. “I think every year, team’s have a new personality and a new group dynamic. This year we have a group … that balances out with our laser focus on our goal of winning a national championship.”


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