Following a breakthrough triumphant season, three underclassmen for St. Olaf volleyball were selected as All-Conference athletes immediately after the MIAC playoffs concluded – Lauren Rewers ’20, Lexi Wall ’21 and Summer Reid ’21. With the help of these three athletes, St. Olaf surpassed all expectations and had an outstanding season.
Rewers and Reid placed first and second in the conference with kill totals of 395 and 355, respectively, while Wall dominated the competition with 11.24 assists per set, topping the MIAC by a considerable sum. Together, the breakout trio helped St. Olaf to top three finishes in total points (1,878), kills (1,492), assists (1,433) and service aces (173), igniting a previously dormant offense that placed in the bottom third in each of those statistical categories in 2016. Considering all three are currently underclassmen with countless upcoming opportunities to improve both individually and as a unit, St. Olaf is looking like a worthy contender with seemingly limitless potential for the near future.
Despite the fact that the young Ole stars were emphatically named All-MIAC, they give full credit to their team.
“I wouldn’t, this sounds cliché, really be on the All-Conference team if it hadn’t been for my teammates,” Reid said. “They were just really supportive of me the whole year. Everyone was just awesome. I don’t think I would have made it if I didn’t have such awesome teammates.”
From the very first serve in the regular season, the Oles were determined to defy preseason coaches’ polls and a recent history of cellar conference finishes, piecing together a surprising season in which it emerged victorious in two-thirds of its contests, including a 9-2 record at home. This resurgent effort was a shock to all outside spectators and opponents, as St. Olaf was ranked second to last in the MIAC heading into the fall. This ranking hardly presented any significant restriction to the athletes’ unshakable tenacity and determination.
Rewers vividly remembers witnessing her team’s ranking for the first time, an early motivational factor for what would become one of St. Olaf volleyball’s most special seasons in recent memory.
“I remember in a team meeting looking at it and thinking ‘this means nothing to us,’” Rewers said. “‘We are not going to let this dictate how our season goes. We’re not going to let this be the deciding factor.’”
This determination to prove St. Olaf’s latent talent hidden beyond a mere preseason number was the shared catalyst which jumpstarted the team through a playoff run to the semifinals, the club’s first since 2010. According to the triumphant triad, it also sparked an uncanny camaraderie that allowed the team to gel and find its groove down the stretch, united in their common goal of proving doubters wrong and extracting the very most of their latent potential.
“We all just work together really well,” Reid said. “And I think the fact that we all had one common goal, winning and doing our best, really led to the closeness of the team. Communication is a really big part of a team sport, especially volleyball. Communication on and off the court really fostered our family feel. It was a pretty welcoming community which I really enjoyed and felt a part of from the beginning.”
“Everyone on the court, even off the court, tries their hardest, and everyone is all in,” Wall said. “I think everyone just came together and it was good chemistry and good hard work that made it [the team’s success].”
“I think that [family mentality] plays a huge role in how successful we are on the court,” Rewers said. “Because we love each other so much off the court and on. I learned that from the alumni before and I think I’ll keep just teaching that to everyone that comes, just that we care so deeply for each other.”
Even though St. Olaf Volleyball has always been a tightly-knit community akin to a real family, the difference between previous seasons and this magical year was the energy, drive and belief that the team could truly excel following two consecutive seasons in which it finished last in the MIAC. The welcoming atmosphere kept the team close and determined, possessing a mentality of unity and trust that contributed to every match, oftentimes resulting in victory. Yet, despite their confidence, the athletes remained humble enough to keep that powerful work ethic alive for the duration of the marathon season.
“All of us were just completely brought into the program and all of us were completely invested,” Rewers said. “We have seven freshmen that I am so thankful that they came to St. Olaf, whether they were on the court all the time or just working their butts off in practice every day. They added so much to the team dynamic. [In] no game did we ever walk in thinking, ‘oh, we’re going to win this game’ or ‘oh, we’re going to lose this game.’ We work so hard for every game and [the successful season] was the outcome of it.”
The Oles fell short in the semifinals against St. Thomas, but after leapfrogging from 11th to third in the MIAC rankings, the future for St. Olaf volleyball with Rewers, Reid and Wall making up a strong core for several additional seasons to come, looks brighter than it has in a long time, as the players are determined to keep the momentum going.
“I think [next season’s team] will stay strong, just because we’re not looked down on in the MIAC anymore,” Reid said. “We’re proud to be Oles and we like to show that. I think that pride of playing for St. Olaf will really show through the next few years.”