VOLLEYBALL LOOKS TO CLOSE OUT REGULAR SEASON ACHIEVING RANKING GOALS

SARAH KOCHER

sakocher12@ole.augie.edu

 volleyball

Despite losing Tuesday’s game against Southwest Minnesota State in four sets (1-3), Augustana’s volleyball team still has a shot to meet many of their major season goals.

“I think it fueled more fire in us because we had that game right at our fingertips,” sophomore setter Marissa Johnson said.

There are two games remaining in regular season play for the Vikings (20-7). The team has reached its goal of a 20-win season and is still working to beat the fifth place conference ranking they earned last year.

“Right now we’re really just focused on one week at a time,” head coach Ashley Buckley said.

Currently, the Vikings are ranked seventh, moving up one slot on Wednesday in the NCAA Central Region rankings. The top eight teams compete in the regional tournament.

“Being a part of that regional is probably the biggest goal of the season,” Buckley said.

The Vikings play Minot State on Friday, Nov. 15, and the University of Mary on Saturday, Nov. 16, and Buckley said these games will be important in clinching their conference and regional slots.

“We hope to walk away from those games 2-0 to solidify our spot in the rankings,” senior middle blocker Taylor Hrdlichka said.

Technically, the team excels at having a well-distributed offense, aggressive players at the net, versatility and a good record of service receives, Buckley said. Augustana’s defense is also ranked No. 1 in the conference as the team with the highest digs per set.

“The chemistry this year is great,” Buckley said.

Johnson said she has found the team dynamic to be strong and unique.

“We are probably the only team that gets along as well as we do,” she said.

Hrdlichka has also found this year to be exceptional, for this reason and for others.

“I think this has been the best of my five years playing for this team,” Hrdlichka said. “We have so many players that have the skill level to do amazing things now and in the future. It pushes every one of us to get better and compete at our highest level.”

This competitive team includes senior Holly Hafemeyer, a team leader and last week’s Division II National Player of the Week. This season found Hafemeyer setting the Augustana record for points in a three-set match.

Currently, practice goals involve working on offensive consistency and service reception, which needs to improve late in the game, Buckley said. These things should be able to help the Vikings clinch close games within the match.

In an attempt to continue the team’s successes, Augustana volleyball also signed three new freshman Wednesday.

While Buckley appreciates the team’s approach and their ability to control “our side of the net,” she concedes that the pre-conference interval will require practice.

“We’ve hit some of our major milestones, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do,” Buckley said. Nevertheless, Hrdlichka is optimistic.

“I think we’ll end the season surprising everyone,” she said.