2015 MIAC Volleyball Camp Tour- St. Olaf

By Kelsey Whaley
Well, we've arrived at the last stop of the MIAC Volleyball Camp Tour. It’s been an incredibly fun ride for me. I’ve had the chance to sit in and watch 11 of the 12 volleyball programs either practice or scrimmage during the preseason. Knock on wood, I made it through each one without witnessing a horrendous injury (or any injury at all for that matter).

The final stop on the camp tour was St. Olaf. The Oles were the host of the preseason scrimmage, so I had plenty of opportunities to see them in action. I didn’t even have to move courts after watching Hamline and St. Thomas. St. Olaf played Gustavus on court two right after Hamline’s scrimmage ended.

The coaching scenario at St. Olaf is a little different this season. For the past 22 years, Cindy Book has served as the Oles head coach. This fall, however, Coach Book is going on sabbatical. St. Olaf fans will still see a familiar face on the court. Walt Weaver, an assistant with the program the past few years, will serve as the interim head coach and will be assisted by Reid Vernon.

St. Olaf is looking to bounce back after two subpar seasons. The Oles have only won 3 games in the MIAC the past two season after finishing with a 7-4 conference record in 2012. While turnover and graduation did play a role in that, the seniors on the team especially want to get back to the winning tradition the program is used to.

That being said, here are my six observations from watching St. Olaf in their preseason scrimmage:

  1. Coaching Situation- As I mentioned earlier, the coaching situation is unique at St. Olaf this season.
    Interim head coach Walt Weaver talks to the St. Olaf players
    before their scrimmage against Gustavus. Weaver was
    highly successful as a high school coach before becoming
    an assistant at St. Olaf. 
    With Coach Book going on sabbatical, the Oles promoted assistant coach Walt Weaver as the interim head coach. However, this isn’t Coach Weaver’s first rodeo at the helm. He has a long history with the sport of volleyball prior to his assistant coaching days at St. Olaf. He coached high school volleyball for a total of 33 seasons, 31 at Apple Valley and two at Lakeville North. In that time, he won three state championships, made the state tournament 14 times, won the school’s conference title 18 times, and won over 700 games. Weaver currently owns and directs the Midwest Volleyball Instructors Camps and Clinics with his wife and hosts a national clinic for coaches and players on the St. Olaf campus. In other words, Walt Weaver knows volleyball and is very familiar with the St. Olaf campus and traditions.
  2. Belief in Tradition- The St. Olaf players believe in the winning tradition and history of their volleyball program. The Oles are only 5 years removed from taking a share of the conference title (they tied for first with St. Thomas in 2010) and winning the MIAC’s playoff championship (also in 2010). However, since then, the team has had some up and down seasons. They finished with a 4-7 record in 2011 before doing a full 360 to finish 7-4 in 2012. Since then, though, St. Olaf has finished the regular season with records of 1-10 and 2-9. Their players want to get back to championship form and return as one of the top teams in the MIAC conference.
  3. Leadership at Setter- The Oles are lead by senior setter Kersten Bork. In her first three
    Senior setter Kersten Bork prepares to make a set during
    pregame warm ups.
    seasons at St. Olaf, Bork led the team in assists and finished in the top half of all MIAC setters each season. Her freshman year, she finished second in the conference with 1,150 assists while playing in every set of every match on the St. Olaf schedule. She knows what it takes to win both in the MIAC and Division III. She is the clear leader on the team, and if given the right assets, is fully capable of commanding St. Olaf’s offense.
  4. Move without the Ball- The players at St. Olaf move without the ball very well. It’s easy for players to take a break and mentally check out if they aren’t involved in the play. However, this never seems to happen with the Oles. Every player is carefully watching the ball on both sides of the net. Defensive players move and make reads when the ball in on the other side of the court while the hitters come in for coverage when the ball isn’t set their way.
  5. Waiting on Defense- Movement without the ball brings about good defensive coverage. As long as the St. Olaf players continue watching the ball, they will continue being in the right
    Junior libero Abby Slack dives for a ball during
     the preseason scrimmage
    positions on defense. Their blockers are rarely fooled by opposing setters, and their defensive specialists always seem to be sitting and waiting for the ball. The team is also extremely quick, which makes the transition from offense to defense easy.
  6. Fill the Stands- Even though it was only a scrimmage, the St. Olaf students came out to support their team in a big way. They all sat on the edge of the stage and cheered their friends and classmates on in their scrimmage against Gustavus. This indicates that there will be quite the fan turnout during the regular season. What was really cool to see was that most of the fans who turned out to support the Oles were students themselves. The volleyball team will always have the fans on their side at home, which will make games in the Skoglund Center fun and exciting.

As always, thank you to Coach Weaver and Coach Vernon for letting me come to the scrimmage and talk with them during the break. Thanks to the players as well. St. Olaf will open play on September 1 when they host Crown College and Martin Luther in two nonconference games. They host Augsburg at home to open their conference season.

Where to Next?
Sadly, St. Olaf ends the 2015 MIAC Volleyball Camp Tour. Up next, though, is the regular season. If this camp tour isn’t an indicator, it’s going to be an extremely fun and competitive season. With so many quality teams, the MIAC is once again going to be one of the best volleyball conferences in the nation. No one is a shoe in to win the conference title, and it’s going to be a lot of fun watching the top teams duke it out.

Make sure to continue checking Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram throughout the year to stay up to date with all the latest MIAC volleyball action! I'll be going to at least one home game for every school and will post photos, videos, and updates on social media during games!

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