Photo by Hannah Robb/St. Olaf Athletics
Student athletes are an important part of St. Olaf’s student body. According to the school website, they make up about one-third of the entire student population. So, I sought out a fall athlete here on campus to ask what it is like to juggle a college education and a Division III sport at the same time. This week I got to chat with #21 on the volleyball squad, Caitlin Lee ’26. Lee has been with the St. Olaf volleyball program for two years, and in an interview with The Olaf Messenger, she said that the friends she has made through the volleyball program are “people I can always rely on.”
I have known Lee personally for about five years now and having played with her myself, I can attest to how hard she works and how good she is at the sport. Lee confirmed how difficult it is to be a student-athlete. During the school year, she wakes up at 5:30 a.m. every other day for group lifts at 6 a.m. and sometimes doesn’t get back to campus from away games until midnight. Sometimes if game sites are far away, the team will get a hotel for the night and drive back in the morning, and those are very long days. “At first it was rough at the beginning but now that I’ve done it for a year, waking up at 5:30 a.m. is really easy,” Lee said.
I asked where homework fits in, especially with two-and-a-half-hour practices almost every day on top of team lifts and going to away games. “It’s all about finding the time and taking advantage of it, if you have 30 minutes in your day, you can’t relax; you need to use it for homework,” Lee said.
Even outside of the regular season players still have to wake up at 6 a.m. for team lifts, as well as attend open gyms and contribute to a team summer league when school is not in session. “The grind never stops,” Lee said.
Lee’s favorite memory from this season so far is winning against Bethel University at home. “I just loved the energy the student section brought to the gym, it was a very fun thing to experience,” Lee said.
The volleyball team does not have many home games this year, but they are still making the most of all of their games, even on the road.
Recently, the women’s volleyball team reverse swept Northwestern University, ranked number four in the country for division III schools, in a nail-biting five-set match on Oct. 18. This match happened after my interview with Lee but she said she was excited for the match and to play against her old teammate, #23 Marley Aune. Lee loves to see former teammates and even play against them — she roots for their successes and loves to say hi when she gets the chance.
Overall Lee’s favorite part about being a volleyball player here at St. Olaf is the community that is created because of it. All of the teammates have strong bonds with each other. “We’re kind of like sisters in a way,” Lee said. “We always support each other whether it’s a band concert or a stressful exam we show up for each other. We just want each other to succeed.”