Payton Lowrey named MWC women’s volleyball Player of the Year


Evan Hein

Payton Lowrey `22.5 has been named the Midwest Conference (MWC) Volleyball Player of the Year.

Jandry Perez Garcia, Staff Writer

After a record-breaking final season, Payton Lowrey `22.5 has been named the Midwest Conference (MWC) Volleyball Player of the Year — an achievement that has only been accomplished by two previous Grinnell volleyball players.

During the 2022 season, Lowrey had a total of 649 digs and 6.18 digs per set. These feats ranked Lowrey as #8 in the NCAA Division III National Ranking for number of digs and digs per set.

Additionally, Lowrey holds first, sixth, seventh and tenth place in the school records for total digs, which she accomplished with her performance over her fourth, third, second and first years respectively, said Coach Eric Ragan in an email to the S&B.

“She is hands down the best defensive player Grinnell has ever had,” wrote Ragan.

Lowrey said she started her volleyball career when she was 11 years old and has continued to play for nearly 12 years now. She joined a club the year after she started playing in a recreational league.

“It just became something that I loved so much because I got to be around the same group of people. It was like a built-in friend group outside of school,” said Lowrey. “I decided to come to Grinnell because I wanted to continue having that built-in team, having those friends but also playing a sport that I like,” she said.

Ragan wrote, “I’ve loved coaching Payton. She’s one of the first student-athletes that I recruited to Grinnell. It’s been awesome to see her grow as a person and player. Payton has helped me grow as a coach, too, and I have valued our conversations and the feedback she’s provided me.” 

Lowrey said that she used to be hard on herself when she made mistakes playing volleyball, but after starting to play at Grinnell, she matured into someone that is not as self-critical.

“I think that being a good teammate is also being a good teammate to yourself,” said Lowery.

Lowery said she came to this realization through talks with Coach Ragan, the positive environment on the team and a lot of self-reflection during the pandemic.

The pandemic was difficult for Lowrey. She practiced her individual skills, but it was not the same playing volleyball without a team due to the highly cooperative nature of the sport.

“I can’t hit a ball, I’m the Libero. I don’t ever finish the point unless I pass a free ball over and they miss, which does not happen. So, the idea that I can play this sport without a team just doesn’t make sense because I need someone to hit the ball,” Lowrey said. “But I’m glad there are people that can do that better than me and they will be playing.”

Liberos are defense specialists and the rules do not allow them to serve or complete an attack in any way.

Ragan said he has seen Lowrey develop her leadership over the years. Avery Richardson `22 wholeheartedly agreed. Richardson said that during their last game, after the team lost the first set of the match, Lowrey gave the team a motivational speech that helped them win the second set.

“It was a pretty emotional game for me because it was my last, my whole career. I knew if we didn’t win this, we were done,” Lowrey said. “I wanted to make sure people understood because I’m the only senior that’s graduating and not playing another semester. So, I thought it was important for people to know how much I valued this team and how much I wanted to go out playing like the team that I loved,” she said.

“Payton is an amazing teammate and person. Not to mention a fantastic volleyball player,” said Lowrey’s teammate, Sophie Weber `25. “Payton is a great mentor for defense specialists. She always has things to say about what we can do better during games, and she always tries to make everyone feel good, even if we are losing the game,” Weber said.

Another teammate, Emmy Nyquist `24, echoed the sentiment.

“She’s been a leader for our back row since she arrived on campus and brings incredible ball control and defense to our team. She’s the first one to pick me up after I make a mistake and knows how to take my mind off that mistake and helps me move past it,” Nyquist said.

In reference to Lowrey being named the MWC Volleyball Player of the Year, teammate Rachel Woock `23 said, “She certainly has not been given enough recognition for all the things she’s done for our team and compared to a lot of the people in the rest of the conference … I don’t think she’s really gotten the recognition that she deserves so it was really exciting as a teammate to hear that she won.”