Volleyball team shows grit

Pipers unload on Macalester after a rough night against Northwestern (MN).


Paul Patane

Junior Julia Zolnosky elevating over the net for a kill against Northwestern (MN) on Friday, Oct. 9.

Paul Patane, Sports Editor

It was a camouflage-themed code red night to kickstart two big home games over a two day span. Hamline’s volleyball program came out amped up and ready to compete, but due to some miscues and in some instances, a lack of size, the team fell to Northwestern (MN) 0-3 on Friday, Oct. 9.

Despite losing to Northwestern (MN), the team rallied past Macalester the following day, winning all three sets by scores of 25-21, 25-22 and 28-26, respectively. The quick turnaround put the team’s tenacity and ability to rebound from tough performances on display.

Head Coach Becky Egan and her assistant coach, Maggie Meixl, emphasize keeping their players relaxed and having fun, despite how the team performs on any given night.

“Everybody plays better when they’re loose and when they’re happy and having fun with their teammates,” Meixl said.

Even though the Pipers play loose and have fun, that doesn’t mean they aren’t fierce competitors who are always looking for ways to improve.

“We need to work hard and practice every day. We need to work smart in practice. We need to be competitive all the time,” Meixl said.

Hard work was on display Saturday as junior outside hitter Julia Zolnosky led the team with 10 kills. Behind her, junior right side hitter Jena Meyer and sophomore outside hitter Marisa Franco each contributed with nine.

In addition to working hard and smart, the Pipers used their nonconference showdown against Northwestern (MN) as an opportunity to try some new strategies and techniques out with different players.

“Northwestern is a great nonconference team,” said senior outside hitter Michelle Mattke. “Having a really good nonconference game is a great way for Hamline to try different things on the court. Try different lineups; take calculated risks with our shots.”

Miquel Green playing the ball with teammates Jamie Rubbelke and Beth Goodman looking on during their code red game on Oct. 9.
Paul Patane
Miquel Green playing the ball with teammates Jamie Rubbelke and Beth Goodman looking on during their code red game on Oct. 9.

Off the court, Egan has implemented a couple changes in her third year running the program. Perhaps the biggest difference for the players compared to previous seasons is the coaches now watch film of their opponents without the players.

“The way that we treat game day strategy is a little bit different. We haven’t been watching any film anymore. We’re concentrating more on our side of the net, rather than watching what other teams have been doing on their side,” Mattke said.

While the players aren’t watching film, that doesn’t mean the coaching staff isn’t picking up on opponent tendencies or working to put the Hamline players in the best possible situations to succeed.

“We give them keys to focus in on,” Meixl said. “They don’t have to break everything down. It’s a lot of extra time for them. They’re students first, and they don’t need to be hanging out watching tape with us all day.”

Despite the uneven start to conference play this season, the Pipers are optimistic and feeling bullish as they’re now healthy. Against Macalester, they buckled down and fought to improve in conference standings.

“We have to be able to sustain our energy,” said senior outside hitter and defensive specialist Jamie Rubbelke. “We have to really push hard to keep up with these great teams.”

Rubbelke contributed against Macalester with three aces and eight digs. Senior libero Miquel Green led all Pipers with 15 digs.

Rubbelke suggests having a difficult nonconference schedule will help the team down the stretch as they try to qualify for the playoffs for the second time in three seasons under Egan.

“I think we have a super super tough conference,” Rubbelke said. “Our nonconference play really helped us leading into conference play.”

senior Jamie Rubbelke setting up her teammates against Northwestern (MN).
Paul Patane
 Senior Jamie Rubbelke setting up her teammates against Northwestern (MN).

Despite how the wins and losses column looks, the team has garnered respect from first-year assistant coach Meixl.

“I’m really really proud of how hard the girls have been working and how smart we’ve gotten on the court. We’re probably the tiniest team in our conference but we definitely do some really good stuff,” Meixl said.

It may have taken a little bit of getting used to each other, but seniors like Mattke appreciate Meixl’s contributions to the program.

“Maggie is a very positive coach and a very positive influence on the court,” Mattke said. “We can always look to Maggie when we are in a tough spot in a game when we are maybe behind a couple points and we’ll take a timeout and she’ll always have something positive to say.”

After topping Macalester, Hamline volleyball improved to 9-10 (2-4 MIAC), which ranks them eighth in conference standings. The Pipers face MIAC opponent St. Benedict tonight at 7 p.m. in Hutton Arena. Their home finale will be against St. Olaf on Saturday, Oct. 24.