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The Scarlet & Black

Volleyball surpasses last season’s win total

The volleyball team hosted the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM) Invitational at the Darby Gymnasium last weekend. The Pioneers displayed a strong outing as they won three out of four games, good enough to finish second in the tournament. Thanks to its outstanding performance, Grinnell surpassed last season’s win total of three.

Grinnell emerged victorious against Knox College, Lake Forest College and Macalester College while it fell to Carleton College. The players credit implementation of several changes for last weekend’s success.

“One of the things we’ve been really committed to is starting practice right at 4:30 [p.m.], so we can take a full advantage of the two hours that we have together,” said Sydney McClendon ’16. “And I think there is also a level of higher intensity of practice than I’ve ever seen before, and I do think a part of that is some of what the first-years are bringing to the team. They’ve been really instrumental in that.”

Volleyball takes second place in the ACM Invitational. Photo by Connie Lee.
Volleyball takes second place in the ACM Invitational. Photo by Connie Lee.

As McClendon said, the addition of talented first-years has been a momentous one to the group. In the past especially, the team has struggled with training new setters, but this year Margaret Giles ’18 has filled in smoothly for the role.

“Coming in right away and having someone that is used to setting has made a really big difference in our preseason this year, in terms of cutting down the time it takes to train someone to fill in that position,” said Natalie Duncombe ’15.

Giles’s influence on the team was evident on Saturday as she dished out 31 and 29 assists against Knox and Lake Forest, respectively. Her teammates fed off her performance, with Duncombe registering 10 kills against Knox and Claire Weidman ’15  getting 12 kills against Lake Forest. In the two Sunday games, Giles recorded a combined 49 assists.

“I have a lot to look forward to in this team,” McClendon said. “It’s crazy we’ve already doubled the amount of wins we had last season, and we are only a few weeks into our season. So there are a lot of good things happening for us right now.”

Grinnell did, however, tumble against Carleton in its first Sunday game.

“We started off a little slow [against Carleton],” McClendon said. “But I do think [that] by the end of it, we filled up enough momentum to get it going, and that’s what really helped us take Macalester.”

Indeed, the momentum could not be stopped as the team defeated the Scots in the second Sunday game with an incredible hitting performance. Weidman tallied 13 kills with a .429 hitting percentage while Duncombe hit .350 and Sarah Garringer ’18 recorded .385.

“Carleton was a very smart team when we played against them and they used that to their advantage,” Duncombe admitted. “I thought we worked really hard against them, but you could tell as a team that they knew how to finish and win points, which is what we are still working on in our games.”

Now more aware of what they need to work on, the team will look to further extend their success this season and claim the first winning season of the program since 2002. The next test for the Pioneers will be this weekend’s St. Catherine University Tournament in St. Paul, Minn.

“I expect us to take the same intensity that we had this weekend and carry that over because we will be playing a lot of strong teams again,” McClendon said. “We’ve actually played St. Catherine before, so we know it’s going to be a lot of competitive teams. But, I think that we made growth last weekend, and I expect us to continue that growth into this weekend.”

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