Volleyball down, but hardly out

Saying that the first half of the volleyball team’s season was uneven would be the gravest understatement one could make about any fall sports team thus far. Opening the season with five consecutive victories seemed to inspire confidence and optimism, especially considering four of those wins came in convincing shutout fashion. The Oles seemed well on their way to piecing together their first winning season since the team dominated the conference with a 31-5 record back in 2010.

Unfortunately, while the first week of play was the model of consistency, the second has been anything but. Since the hot start, the Oles have fallen into a discouraging slump, losing seven of their last nine contests, including a 0-3 beatdown at the hands of division rival Augsburg. This rough patch has made the early momentum a distant memory; in the blink of an eye, the season has transformed from what looked like a surefire playoff run into a scramble to get back on track before the remainder of the conference leaves the Oles in the dust. And with ten of the final twelve matches coming against divisional opponents, it’s time to do or die.

Yet there is still reason to be optimistic. Three of the Oles’ next four matches come against teams with losing records, including Concordia (3-7), St. Benedict (5-7) and Macalaster (5-7), the latter of whom St. Olaf already subdued handily earlier in the season. If they defeat these weaker opponents as they’re projected to, the Oles will sit comfortably above .500 as they did a week ago, once again riding a respectable winning streak that should help restore their mojo just in time for the biggest showdown of the season against conference leader St. Mary’s.

Furthermore, though the team as a whole has struggled recently, the headline players have kept their excellent pace, allowing St. Olaf to remain competitive even through the losses. Megan Grimes ’19 has emerged as the team’s top-level offensive threat, currently placing third in the entire conference with 152 kills and fourth with 3.04 kills per set, well on pace to eclipse her already impressive totals from 2015. Lauren Rewers ’20 is right behind Grimes with 144 kills, placing fifth in the conference and making an immediate impact in her debut season. Veteran Abby Slack ’17 has handled the defensive side of things with 241 digs, fourth in conference – impressive for most players, but the norm for her after three seasons of comparable defensive prowess.

So though this recent stretch of misfortune may cause some to push the panic button, the reality is that the Oles control their own destiny and have the talent to get back on track. The hole they’ve dug themselves is rather deep, but don’t believe for a second that it is insurmountable.