Attack of the volleyball nerds

Volleyball opens conference play with win.


Paul Patane

The Piper volleyball team during a timeout against Martin Luther on Wednesday, Sep. 9.

Jake Kjos, Reporter

With a 3-1 win on the road against Carleton on Wednesday, Sep. 16, the Pipers Volleyball team opened up conference play with a victory they hope will propel them for the rest of the season.

The win takes the Pipers to a 7-5 record after a 6-5 nonconference record to begin the season. Junior setter Amelia Jensen described the nonconference matches as something positive to build on.

“We’ve been having ups and downs. We’ve been improving every practice and every game,” Jensen said.

Junior outside hitter Julia Zolnosky echoed a similar sentiment.

“We’ve done pretty well. Our communication has increased a lot, and our team defense and offense has gotten better.”

One of the ways the team has worked on these things is by using competitive scrimmages in practice to work on teamwork and simulate games.

“It gives us that competitive edge and team essence,” Jensen said.

In her third year as head coach, Becky Egan has implemented a different style in practice than the previous two years.

“The players are past the education part. The older players are confident enough to educate the others, and the underclassmen are a part of the flow,” Egan said.

Jensen feels the new approach has helped the skills learned in practice translate into game situations more easily.

“We switched from watching film the past two years to breaking things down and working on them in the moment,” Jensen said.

Ranked ninth in the MIAC Preseason Coaches’ Poll, the Pipers’ goal is to beat their rank and make the playoffs.

“We gotta get to sixth,” Egan said,” the playoffs are a definite possibility.”

Jensen also had a strong desire to get back to the playoffs after just missing out last year.

“We weren’t supposed to make it [to the playoffs] my freshman year. Then we missed them by a set last year.”

One of the main philosophies that has not changed since Egan became coach is something that has helped them continue to surpass expectations.

“We call it being a volleyball nerd,” Jensen said, “it’s just analyzing the game and having a love for it.”

Coach Egan embraces the term for the team.

“You should be nerds. When I’m watching videos it’s not always just the opponent, but learning about the game,” Egan said.

This love of the game has brought the team close together and helped put them two games above .500 despite being overlooked by others.

“We pride ourselves on being scrappy grinders. When you look at our frontline of 5’7”, 5’9” and they’re standing across from girls who are 6’3”, 6’5” and they go out there and compete,” Egan said.

The similar mindset and team bonding has helped Jensen and Zolnosky accumulate MIAC leading statistics in assists and kills, respectively.

Zolnosky credited her teammates with her strong start to the season.

“Team defense has given me freedom to get the swings I want to have. Vassi and Amelia have been awesome.”

Jensen also acknowledged how important teamwork is in getting assists.

“The hitters have helped, and Julia and I have connected really well. Being a setter you have to get it up and rely on them.”

A main issue that has worked against the Pipers has been injuries. With seniors like Michelle Mattke, a key hitter for the team last season, missing time due to injury, it has forced younger players to step up into more prominent roles.

“The girls are very adaptable, and that is something that helps with injuries. We’re lucky that the timing of it has been earlier in the season,” Egan said.

Despite injuries, the team is confident in themselves and their ability to reach the playoffs.

“I want to be a team other teams are nervous to play,” Zolnosky said.

The Pipers will play at home on Sep. 23 against 12-2 (1-0 MIAC) St. Mary’s, then travel to Concordia Sep. 26, another team that won their conference opener.