Team finishes season ‘strong’

by Katie Buchholz and Alex McCarty

Beginning the season with a 6-12 record,the Simpson volleyball team may not have started on a high note, but played out the season strong.

One key piece to the Storm’s success was consistency, and stability was one of the main focuses for the team over the course of the season.

“We struggled the most with consistency this season,” head coach Lana Smith said. “We minimized our errors as the season progressed and were able to finish strong.”

The defining moment in the Storm’s success came in a 3-2 win over Cornell College at home on Oct. 5.

“Our win over Cornell in October was a real turning point,” Smith said. “We gained the confidence we needed to carry us through October.”

The team used this momentum to carry itself to an 8-6 record, winning five out of its last seven matches during the final month of the season.

Even though the record was not what the team hoped, the Storm was happy with the progress made throughout the season.

“It was really important that we finished strong,” Smith said. “The players have worked hard throughout the season and it was important for them to see their efforts paid off. We definitely wouldn’t have wanted it in reverse.”

One of the highlights throughout the season was the match against Luther College on Oct. 19. The Storm beat the Norse 3-0, earning not only an important win, but having a solid day in terms of box score, as well.

“We had a great time playing and played as a team,” senior Ashley Padget said.

A standout individual performance in the win over Luther was senior Megan Dunlavy, who set the school record for hitting percentage by a player with 15-19 attempts and a percentage of .824. Dunlavy, a 2010 First Team All-Conference performer, also had a successful 2011 campaign.

Dunlavy led the team in blocks with 57, hitting percentage of .291, 43 service aces and kills per set averaging 3.69 per contest. She was named IIAC Hitter of the Week once this season to go along with four different all-tournament team nominations.

The senior outside hitter ended her Simpson career eighth in school history with 1,344 kills, and third on Simpson’s all-time career hitting percentage, finishing with .271.

Junior Steph Keller was second on the team with 316 kills and a .187 hitting percentage this season. Keller was also selected alongside Dunlavy for the Simpson Invitational all-tournament team.

With 23 possible returners, four of them starters, the Storm have a solid foundation to build upon for next year.

Freshman Amelia Blair used her first year on the team as a transition from high school and is excited for next season.

“My first year playing was a lot different than high school just because I had to start all over.” Blair said. “I had a lot of fun playing, though, and I really enjoyed my first season here.”

Sophomore Morgan Terpstra is anticipating different results for next year’s season.

“I’m really looking forward to coming back super strong next year since we didn’t have our best season this year.” Terpstra said. “Next year we want to catch all the teams off-guard and make some noise in the conference tournament.”