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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Grinnell volleyball falls to Cornell but looks ahead to conference tournament

Cory Hall
Kaylin Kuhn bumps the ball back to the Cornell team

By: Lena Wiebe

After a disappointing loss to Cornell College on October 27, the Grinnell women’s volleyball team is regrouping to play in the semifinals of the 2021 Midwest Conference Tournament against Illinois College on 11/5.


The game, which will be played in Mount Vernon, IA, will determine who faces Cornell College in the finals, a match that earns the winning team the conference championship and a ticket to the NCAA Division III Women’s Volleyball Tournament.


Although the tournament was cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19, Grinnell won the conference championship in 2019.


Kaylin Kuhn ‘22, says that the team is feeling cautiously optimistic about their upcoming match against Illinois College, a team that they have previously won against this season. “It was competitive, but we definitely felt like we had control of the situation… We know what we need to do to take care of business,” Kuhn said, although she emphasized that both teams are now entering the tournament on equal footing.


But the possibility of another match against Cornell inspired some more wariness. In their last match against Cornell, Julianna Roth ‘22 said they faced some technical challenges, like executing hits and making good strategic decisions in gameplay.


“In our last match, we played a little bit afraid, we had this big crowd, we want to do well, we want to live up to all these expectations. It’s our biggest game, it’s our biggest rival. So, I think it became clear we were playing scared from that game because we put ourselves in a tough position by playing the way we did in that first set, which kind of set the tone for the match.”


But, Roth thinks the team is ready to meet those challenges: “I think for this weekend it’s all out from the first point – doesn’t matter who’s in the crowd, doesn’t matter where we are, doesn’t matter the energy of the people from the sidelines. All that matters is that we as a team can be cohesive and play,” she said.


Both players said the team had prepared by scouting other teams and tailoring practices and drills to their strengths and weaknesses, extensively reviewing film of gameplay, and focusing on improving technical aspects like hitting efficiency, serves and serve receives, and combating team-specific defensive and offensive strategies.


“I think when you’re playing a really good team, the way you can win is by forcing them to make the errors. If we’re making a bunch of mistakes on our side, that’s just free points for them and vice versa,” Roth said.
Both seniors, Roth and Kuhn emphasized that their goal is ultimately to maintain what Roth calls an “open, vulnerable, communicative, positive culture,” a bittersweet task for fourth-year athletes who have not returned to campus since their second year.

“Our goal is always to walk away with that conference championship, and to make it to the national tournament. So that is a goal, but also to just have fun finishing off the season. If that means that we get to play again in the national tournament, that would be fantastic, but also just playing as a team and having a great time,” Kuhn said.

The pioneers face off against Illinois College November 5 at 4:30p.m.

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