In the Manitou Messenger’s fall sports preview, we predicted that St. Olaf volleyball would most likely undergo a developmental season after losing several key starters, featuring younger players who would need time to adjust to an intensely competitive conference.
Boy, have they proved us wrong. Thus far, the volleyball team has easily been the most surprising athletic team on campus in 2017, jumping to an impressive 17-8 overall record and overcoming some tough rivals to emerge 4-2 against MIAC opponents. Though being thoroughly outmatched by perennial conference threats Gustavus and St. Thomas by a score of 3-0 in each match, the Oles have emerged victorious in nine of their last 12 contests, including dominant performances against Hamline, Macalester and Bethel. Of those nine wins, six have been shutouts.
Altogether, St. Olaf appears destined for its first winning record since its incredible 2010 season, and potentially a postseason appearance along with it. If the regular season ended today, the Oles would be the sixth and final playoff seed.
What’s most surprising, however, is the staggering offensive proficiency that St. Olaf has demonstrated, a complete reversal from a 2016 squad that ranked ninth among MIAC teams in kills and tenth in average kills per set. By comparison, it ranks first and fourth respectively this season.
The dramatic improvement of both Megan Grimes ’19 and Lauren Rewers ’20, as well as an extraordinary breakout season from rookie Summer Reid ’21, has provided the Oles with a powerful triple threat on offense that has utterly overwhelmed most opponents this season. The trio currently possess the top three kills totals out of all conference players. Rewers in particular has been a gem, leading all players in the MIAC with 293 kills and 3.66 kills per set.
That’s not to say St. Olaf hasn’t impressed in all aspects of the game. Though the loss of immaculate digs leader Abby Slack ’17 was expected to significantly hinder the Oles’ defense this season, Haley Langeslag ’20 has nearly mirrored the former’s production, posting 413 digs and 4.86 digs per set, second and third in the MIAC, respectively (by comparison, Slack produced totals of 457 and 5.02) during her senior season. Lexi Wall ’21 has provided the backbone support, topping the conference with 11.14 assists per set.
Breakout performances from several young stars have breathed new life into St. Olaf volleyball, pointing towards an optimistic future and building tremendous excitement for a potential 2017 playoff run.