Despite a loss last weekend that ended its six game winning streak, the Augustana volleyball team has a 14-3 record with a month and a half left in the season. The girls also went undefeated during the preseason and defeated Minnesota State University in four games last Friday.
“We’re happy with where we’re standing right now,” head coach Ashley Buckley said.
The girls lost to six-time national champion Concordia University-St. Paul in three games last Saturday. Senior setter Katie Nieson said Augustana went point-for-point with the No. 1 ranked Concordia for about 10 points each game, but in the end could not pull away to win.
According to Buckley, this season’s competition is vastly different compared to last year.
“The top teams in the league are really good this year, and the bottom half of the league has improved tremendously,” Buckley said.
Graduate assistant head coach Lauren Starks agreed, saying the team prepared for this game as they would any other, but “couldn’t get into the game the way we wanted to.”
Nieson said the team’s biggest issue was maintaining consistency.
“It’s not just playing the game hard at the beginning and the end, but playing the game hard all the way through,” Nieson said.
Senior hitter Holly Hafemayer, who finished two short of 1,000 career kills in Saturday’s match, said the team will use the loss to improve its own game.
“This loss has showed us some of our areas of weakness,” Hafemayer said.
However, the team chooses to focus more on its strengths than its weaknesses, Nieson said, including Augustana’s “gritty” defense and strong hitters. Buckley agreed.
“They found their court personality early in the season. They’re calm, collected, good under pressure,” Buckley said.
Another advantage, they collectively said, is the overall age of the team. According to Starks, four of the starting lineup are upperclassmen, including three seniors.
“We’re split between youth and upperclassmen now, really,” Starks said.
She said she is not worried about losing those all-conference players next season, however they are already training the younger ones to take their places.
“They know what practice is like, they know what a game’s like, so I think it’ll be a good transition for them,” Starks said.
In spite of the “hurt” that a loss brings, Starks said practice started again on Monday with the goal of beating Wayne State next Tuesday, Oct. 22.
“The girls know how the pace of practice needs to be, so there’s no coming in dazed and confused,” Starks said.
Goal setting is a large part of this year’s strategy, according to Starks. This includes a team motto, which this season is “1 and 0.” She said this means keeping games, rather than weekends, in perspective.
“I think it’s been really good for them to see it that way, that we look at small picture first then big picture,” Starks said.
This motto does not keep the team from looking ahead to what the remainder of the season will bring, Starks said. Another matchup against Concordia-St. Paul is likely, and she said the girls would like to win 20 games, as well as come out in the top three of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.
The volleyball team has five more home games left in their season. They play against Wayne State next Tuesday, Oct. 22 in the Elmen Center at 7 p.m.