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The Scarlet & Black

Grinnell volleyball faces top ranked opponents after two-year break from games

Cory Hall
Peyton Lowrey ’22 lunging forward to bump the ball to her teammates. Contributed by Ted Schultz

By Jacob Cowan

After their 2020 season was canceled due to COVID-19, the Grinnell College women’s volleyball team has finally made their long-awaited return to the court. During the Central-Grinnell Volleyball Invitational the weekend of Sep. 3, the team won three of their five games.

One of the teams invited to the tournament, Millikin University, is ranked 17th among all Division III women’s college volleyball programs. Team leadership hopes that playing strong teams like Millikin, while challenging, will give the team an edge come the postseason. In their game against Millikin, Grinnell lost in three close and impressive sets, 21-25, 22-25, and 17-25.

“The only team that we played [in 2019] that was in that top group [of ranked teams] was the team we played in the national tournament, Carthage. And so, to have a game against Millikin so early on was a great challenge. Our schedule this year is really tough, but hopefully, that’ll help us get prepared to play at that level again,” said Kaylin Kuhn `22, one of the captains of the team.

Speaking to the intensity of the team’s training, Kuhn said, “We’ve never played five games in a weekend before. It’s a lot. But I think overall it went really well.”

And the team’s schedule is not letting up any time soon. They played Wartburg College on Tuesday, losing in four sets, and Carleton College on Wednesday, winning in straight sets. For each of the next two weekends, the team has four games on the docket.

Like many of the teams, clubs, and other student organizations on campus, much of the volleyball team is new to Grinnell, never having spent a full year on campus before. “Since we have so many new people, having these opportunities early in the season to play together a lot is really great,” said Julianna Roth `23, the other captain.

Kuhn and Roth are particularly focused on trying to rebuild the team’s culture after the missed year. “Being a Grinnell volleyball player is different than being a high school player, it’s different than being on a different college team. We are very particular and specific with the type of culture we try to create,” said Roth.

When asked about what makes up that specific culture, Kuhn said, “Being able to make mistakes and grow from them is super important. I think the way that we’re going to do well is if everybody’s having fun and working together. That’s what has worked in the past, like, last season we won conference because we were working our asses off and it was fun.”

In 2019, the team went to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history. Coming from that result, the team looks to build on their success. “I would say our expectation for the season is to be very competitive with these other top teams in our conference and then to hopefully win [the] conference,” said Roth.

The Pioneers are set to play Central College away this Tuesday, Sep. 14, at 7:30 p.m.

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