The team is young. But that may just be one of its strengths.
Currently sitting at 5-5, Augustana’s volleyball team opened its 2018 season nearly 1,600 miles from home in St. Petersburg, Fla. There the Vikings had three victories and one loss.
“Because we’re so young, we don’t really have anything to lose at the moment,” said senior and co-captain Courtney Place. “We just go out fighting. We’re not really afraid of any team anymore. While we did graduate five seniors last year, I feel like the younger girls are really stepping up.”
On Sept. 1, the team played against Northern State University (NSU), which is currently ranked second in the nation. Even though Augustana lost to NSU, it didn’t do so without claiming NSU’s only lost set of its season thus far.
“To me, winning that set shows that we have a lot of potential,” Place said. “So I’m really excited to see where we go as a team.”
The game against NSU was one of four games the team hosted at the Augustana Invitational during Labor Day weekend, where a total of 16 other teams travelled to Augustana’s campus to play. Out of the four home games played, Augie ended up 2-2.
Despite its losses, coach Jennifer Jacobs says the team has shown high potential in its preseason.
“We’re really fortunate, because our freshmen this year are really good,” said Jacobs. “We have Grace Haverland who has been getting a lot of playing time and we have Avery Thorson who is a starting setter, which is rare as a freshman, but she’s doing really well.”
Jacobs says the team’s biggest strength is its connectedness on and off the court.
“You have to work on relationships every day, you have to foster them, because they don’t just happen overnight,” Jacobs said. “It’s really important to be connected, so when it comes to the court, the trust is already there. And I think this team knows that.”
According to senior and co-captain Kaylea Ahrens, it appears the team does know that.
“We’re all really close to each other and that’s going to win us those really tight games,” Ahrens said. “I think that’s definitely our strength right now. We’re really open with our communication and we all have a really good bond. We’re not freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors—we are all just one team.”
Freshman and starting setter Avery Thorson, who has known co-captain Place since she was 15 years old, said she feels included and welcome on the team.
“Our job is to make the younger girls feel included in everything that we’re doing and feel included on the team,” Place said. “I feel like they fit in really well, and it feels like we’ve been with them for forever. I’ve told them before that I’d rather be on a team that I really like and enjoy being around my senior year, even if we might not have the biggest winning record, than being on a team I didn’t enjoy.”
In terms of creating season goals, coach Jacobs said the team is trying a new mindset.
“This year we’re taking a different stance on team goals. Instead of having end goals—you know, win the championship, make it to end of season—we’ve decided to focus on the “how.” How are we going to get there? And what are we going to do in practice everyday? We call it controlling the controllables. Everyday we can walk into practice and we can control our own attitude, our own effort and how we interact. If we focus on those three things every day, we believe they will translate into wins.”
The team will play two home games in the Elmen Center this weekend. Watch the team take on Minnesota State at 6 p.m. on Sept. 14 and Concordia-St. Paul at 2 p.m. on Sept. 15.