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Volleyball Club Attends First Tournament of the Year

Grinnell is a great place for a lot of things—one of which is forming clubs for a variety of interests. Kevin Charette ’15 and Jakob Gnirke ’15 formed volleyball club last year with the desire for an opportunity to hang out and play volleyball.

Volleyball - Parker Van Nostrand
The Grinnell Volleyball Club in action. Photograph by Parker Van Nostrand.

“I played ultimate my first year and I wasn’t good enough at any sport to do varsity and I wanted to stay somewhat active, so frisbee was really the only option for me,” Charette said. “And then Jakob and I met … we realized that we could do it, so we did it.”

Charette emphasized that, although the club may compete, no one is being expected to perform at a Division III level and no one is even expected to show up every week. It’s an easy way to stay active and he understands that, while some people aren’t dedicated to the sport, they are willing to try or just like to play.

“I feel that a lot of people will be surprised at how easy it is to pick up, how much fun it is [and] how nice the people are,” said Tracy Johnson ’16. “No matter who you’re playing with, it’s always a lot of fun.”

“From what I’ve heard from other people, they enjoy the level of play—it’s not intimidating. Some people have found it intimidating at first, but once they play with us they realize that anybody can really play,” Charette said.

On Saturday, Nov. 2, the club played in their second tournament as a club at Augustana College in Illinois, competing against schools from different divisions around the Midwest. In all, eight schools attended the tournament.

Having six games and only six players made for a very tiring day for the Pioneers.

“We have [more club members], but there were regulations against having women there and then some of our guys were not able to come. So we had a team with no subs,” Charette said.

“We’re more of a club that gets together to have fun than the club teams that we saw at the tournament … those teams had coaches and brought coolers of food, and we kind of showed up—it was really spontaneous,” Johnson added.

They lost all of their games but the tournament was both a great learning experience and a lot of fun for the team. With three games lost by less than five points and a 24-26 loss against Northwestern University, the team gave each game their all.

“The team did pretty well. Each player had their own equal contributions to the outcomes of our games,” Charette said. “Liam [Shaughnessy ’15] and Yan [Aung ’15] did well as middles and got a number of blocks in all the games. Tracy and I did well and got a few kills throughout the games. David [Hanle ’14] was our setter and did well at getting the balls to where we practiced. Parker [Van Nostrand ’15] had a strong presence in the front and did well in positioning the ball around the blocks of the other teams.”

According to Charette, one of the team’s biggest issues on Saturday was a predictable offense. Although their playing was technically good, it was simple and the other team had no problem figuring out who was going to hit and thus they were easily able to block.

“We are done [going to tournaments] this semester, but plan to go to a lot of tournaments in the early part of next semester to prepare for nationals which are in April. We are currently in the [Midwest Plains Volleyball Conference] league. We will also potentially host a tournament at Grinnell College next semester,” Charette said.

Their main goal is not only to improve, but more importantly to have fun playing. Since the club consists of players of varying skill level, the members have opportunities to learn from each other and become better at the sport. Although most of their time is not centered on improving technique, they sometimes incorporate helpful drills into their practices.

“We learned in the tournament a lot of what we need to improve on and what we’re pretty good at, and so we’re going to use that tournament to look at our practicing,” Charette said. “And then with Tracy Johnson [the varsity women’s volleyball manager] on the team and a lot of the girls’ volleyball team are going to come to our practices and they’ll teach us some things that we need to learn for the spring.”

All are welcome to join the club, or even just stop by for a point or two. The club meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 to 10 p.m. in the auxiliary gym in the Bear.

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