St. Olaf volleyball reaches MIAC semifinal, has big dreams for next year

St. Olaf volleyball ended their season on Nov. 5, losing in three sets to top-seeded Gustavus Adolphus in the MIAC semifinal match. The Gusties went on to win the championship, beating Bethel in the final. Despite finishing their season earlier than they’d hoped, the Oles had a lot to be proud of, as they finished their season 8-3 in conference play.

Over the course of the season, the team focused on two words: “indivisible” and “becoming.” These words acted as both guides and goals, giving the team something to work towards throughout their season. Middle blocker Katelyn Lannom ’22 said, “We use the word ‘becoming’ because we are such a new team, like we had so many fresh faces on the court.” A big priority for this season was building team confidence and cohesion, as more than half of the team had never played a full MIAC season before due to COVID-19.

Their coach, Emily Foster, also introduced the concept of “drishti,” a word used in yoga for “focused gaze.” “That was kind of our thing throughout the season, just really focusing on getting better every single day whether it’s having that intense focus in a practice or having that intense focus throughout the year,” outside hitter Christina Cheng ’23 said. Both players felt like the team did a good job of embracing the principle of drishti over the course of the season.

There were many bright spots for the Oles throughout the season. However, when asked to name one highlight, Cheng said, “I feel like for me personally it was the first time we played Augsburg during conference play.” The Oles were fresh off a heartbreaking 5-set loss to Bethel, and Augsburg is known for being a tough opponent, consistently in the running for the MIAC championship. When playing against Augsburg, “we really had to fight throughout that entire match and I think that was the first match that it really felt like we gelled and were on the same page,” Cheng said. “That was just a really cool feeling, to feel like all of our work had finally amounted to something.”

The Oles won the match 3-1. History repeated itself when, three weeks later, the Oles faced Augsburg again in the quarterfinals and won 3-1.

After losing in the semifinals, Lannom is ready to come back for more and return as a fifth year. “I can’t just be done after knowing how much potential this team has… We have so much more to prove,” Lannom said. Looking ahead, both Cheng and Lannom believe that they can take what they learned this season to step up their game next year. “I think that fighting spirit — I really want to carry that into next year,” Cheng said. “Now we have experience against the top teams in the country. We know what it’s like to be uncomfortable during a game.”

Cheng hopes that the team can use the confidence they have built this season to become a more adaptable team, a team that trusts in their ability to play great volleyball even when their “Plan A” isn’t working. For Lannom, the motivation comes from the fact that, “We know what it’s like to not get where we want to go.” After a season full of successes, heartbreak, and lots of growth, St. Olaf volleyball is more than ready to take what they have learned and rise to the challenge next season.


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