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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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!