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The Scarlet & Black

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Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
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Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm
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Volleyball takes fourth in Midwest Conference

The Grinnell volleyball team achieved the best conference record in the history of their program this past weekend, finishing 6-3 in Midwest Conference play and 9-17 overall.

“The women began the season playing a lot of competitive tournaments, so initially we weren’t winning a lot but we knew we were good,” said Head Coach Jackie Hutchinson.

Despite the early season losses, the team felt confident coming into the conference season. The women qualified for the conference tournament despite losing to Lake Forest in one of their final MWC games.

“We had gone up to Lake Forest and lost. It was a tough loss. They were a good team but we still felt like we should have beaten them. We had a great fan base there, parents of players from two years ago showed up. It was awesome,” Hutchinson said. “After we lost, we didn’t know if we qualified [for the tournament].”

The Pioneers earned a berth thanks to St. Norbert beating Carroll University, who Grinnell had beaten earlier in the year and against whom Grinnell was contending for the fourth seed in the tournament.

“Going to the tournament was one of our goals this season so it was really nice to accomplish that, and I think that as a team we grew throughout the season.  We’re a lot closer but also played a lot better as a volleyball team,” Gilly Dryjanski ’12 said.

In their first Conference tournament game against St. Norbert, the team lost the first set 25-12, but came back to win the second 24-26. St. Norbert won the last two sets 25-19 and 25-14 to win the game. Despite their loss, the women still look back on the tournament as a success.

“I feel really good about what we did at St. Norbert,” Hutchinson said. “There were very few teams that were able to take a set off of them. They have a good talented group of women.”

In preparation for the game, the team used their knowledge of St. Norbert’s strategy from the last time they played them during the regular season.

“We had put in some new ideas in our offense to try to change things up before going up there. The women embraced those ideas.  Olivia Wilkes [’12] was willing to make all of these changes to the offense. I don’t think that people were disappointed because we got beat, we lost to a good team,” Hutchinson said.

The improvement showed in their performance. Instead of ending the game with three sets, the women persisted for four.

“We felt pretty confident going in. We just prepared as much as we could. We went in with the attitude of ‘let’s have fun,’ and it was our last trip together,” Shelby Carroll ’13 said.

Driving up to St. Norbert gave the team time to reflect on the season and gave the seniors more time to reflect on their years on the team at Grinnell.

“I was really excited, it was great to be there and have the opportunity to show them how much we have improved. It was disappointing that we lost but it was also just a really fun trip and it was really exciting to be there again,” Dryjanski said.

For much of this season, the team had a more internal focus. Hutchinson and the women concentrated less on outcomes of their matches and more on teamwork.

“This year we just tended to our own business. There’s no point in wishing ill on any other team. Our task was that we were going to get done what we needed to get done,” Hutchinson said.

Overall, the volleyball season was the most successful in years and the tournament qualification set momentum for next year. Regardless of their large graduating class, Coach Hutchinson is optimistic for the future.

“I’m looking forward to good things, I think that no longer will the program resign itself to being eighth in the conference. There is no way we will ever settle for that again,” Hutchinson said. “We have a lot of depth on our team. The team is excited that we have so much great talent, we have great ingredients for next year.”

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