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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
May 6, 2024
Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Riding Out a Bump in Their Pre-Season, Volleyball Looks Forward to Conference Play

Last Friday, Sept. 20, Grinnell women’s volleyball lost to William Penn University in four sets, but any member of the team will point out that the score was not indicative of the team’s play. The game, the team’s second of the night at the Grinnell College Invitational, showed close scores in all four sets.

Photograph by Connie Lee. Olivia Fromm ’17 [left] and Sydney McClendon ’16 [right] prepare for a return.

The team came into the home invitational with a 0-14 record and lost in three straight sets to Buena Vista University before facing William Penn the same evening.

“We’re 0-16, but it doesn’t really tell the whole story of our season,” said right-side hitter Natalie Duncombe ’15. “We’ve had a lot of building. We’re coming in with a ton of new players, so this pre-season is just trying to put together our lineup and get used to playing with each other.”

Eleven of the 19 Pioneer players are new to the team this year, which creates unique challenges. Olivia Fromm ’17 is one of those players.

“There’s a lot of errors you get when you haven’t played [as a team] for a long time,” Fromm said. “Most teams usually have two new people on the court, and ours is half or more than half most of the time.”

The team’s schedule has allowed the players to play quite a few games before getting into their conference season.

“I try to put together a pre-conference schedule that challenges us. And the truth is, we … have seen the best teams that we are going to play against until the end of October,” said head coach Jackie Hutchison said.

In the nine away games between the Labor Day Classic tournament on the weekend of Aug. 30 and Friday’s Invitational, the team won just two sets. Hutchison and the players say they have come out with valuable lessons.

“It looks like we’re coming into a groove,” Hutchison said. “One of the qualities of a young team is inconsistency, so we have had some of that in the past week, but we are starting to consistently play well together.”

“I was surprised at how quickly we transitioned into having all these new people,” Fromm said. “It feels like we’ve been playing together a lot longer than we have.”

The team has certainly been working towards that unified feeling.

“In terms of pre-season, you’re a bit more experimental in trying to figure out lineups, but … you’re fine-tuned by the end of pre-season,” Duncombe said.

The team’s first conference game is tonight against Monmouth College and Hutchison is confident.

“I feel like we’re ready. This pre-conference play has prepared us to be good in conference, and that’s where all of our goals are,” Hutchison said.

Last Friday’s game against William Penn has become a model which the team tries to replicate. The William Penn match was “the best we have played this season,” according to Hutchison.

In the Labor Day Classic, the Pioneers had lost all three sets to William Penn, but this time the game felt different.

“Especially in game three we were feeling really strong,” said Duncombe, who notched 11 kills in the game. “We were transitioning well into running plays and I’d say we were in charge of the game, we were the ones setting the tone and momentum, instead of just reacting against what William Penn was doing.”

The Pioneers took the third set 25-22.

The Pioneers narrowly lost the fourth set 25-22, ending the game. Fromm lead the team in kills with 15 and Lindsay Fujimoto ’15 lead the team in assists with 26.

Hutchison was pleased with the team’s performance.

“Our floor defense feels like it’s coming together,” she said. “Sydney McClendon [’16] had a lot of digs, which means to me that the players are in the right spot on court.”

The team is certainly looking to improve their individual and collective skills.

“I’m expecting us to play smarter and smarter volleyball,” Hutchison said. “This is one of the things that good opponents point out to us—when we play tough opponents, we can’t have just one shot. We can’t just rely on hitting hard; we have to be smarter than that. We have to look to score in lots of ways, and we have been challenged to learn that.”

Despite the rough start to the season, Hutchison feels optimistic.

“There’s smart play on the court, but they’ve got the intellectual capacity for volleyball knowledge. We could add a new play, a new defense, and people are like, ‘okay, let’s learn it.’ We’re halfway through our season, and they’re still up for learning more, integrating more, and it’s been a while since I’ve had a team that has wanted that this much.”

The next time you can catch the Pioneers at home is on Friday, Oct. 11, when they will take on Beloit College.

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