Volleyball has officially started their spring training. The team has been working hard in the weight room in preparation for the short amount of time they get together in their off-season. This short spring season is different from last year, however. At the end of Winter Term, the Viking family welcomed in a new head coach for Lawrence volleyball, Kim Falkenhagen. Coach Falkenhagen came to Lawrence with an background of volleyball experience and knowledge and an excited attitude for the future of Viking volleyball.
“I’ve been in collegiate coaching for about 18 years,” said Falkenhagen. “Most of my collegiate experience has been at Division II, but my last stint was at Northland college, which is a Division III institution. I was the [Athletic Director] and head volleyball coach there for six years. When the Lawrence opportunity popped up in Appleton, I [knew] I had always loved the area and it [would] get me to a [place] with much more opportunity while remaining close enough to family and friends.” She reflected on her responsibilities at her last institution and commented that one of the most enticing aspects of this job is that she gets to focus solely on volleyball, which she is excited about. “Luckily, [Athletic Director] Christyn Abaray really liked me as well,” Falkenhagen said. “So I got hired from there and came on down. Now, I’m just coaching volleyball and will get involved with other things in the department, but I just really love it here. I have just started getting things together and figuring out where things were at and talking with the ladies on the team and all that. Finally, last week we started practice and that’s really exciting. We are figuring everyone out and where we are going to be, as well as working on recruiting.”
Students, faculty and professors alike often get asked why they chose to come to Lawrence University of all places. When asked this question, Coach Falkenhagen said, “I went to a state school and part of my career was at Division II schools. However, when I started really getting more involved with the administrative side and athletics within that, I really liked what the Division III private liberal arts college stood for. There’s a lot more opportunities. You can do internships from your second term on. You can study abroad. You just have all of these different opportunities that you are involved with. I think that it’s really nice to be involved with that because there are a lot of things that you don’t get to experience necessarily at other colleges and at other levels. I do like the focus on the academic side of it. What I like about Lawrence is that the feel, while in a larger area, still has that small-town feel. It’s definitely like a college town. I just like how everyone feels like family.”
Spring practices started last Monday, but the future already looks bright for this Viking family. “Practices are going really well,” said Falkenhagen. “We went four days, Monday through Thursday, and did a little bit of different skills each day, except for the first day where they were just playing. So, I got to see everybody play on the team. They’ve been really excited and have been working hard. We are really working on keeping the energy high and working on some skills, but I really like what I see. It’s going to be great. I am really excited for the season.”
This last season the Vikings said goodbye to two clutch senior players. However, a large portion of the team’s core is returning along with at least three incoming students and a late addition to the team, sophomore Ally Herrara. The team and their coaches have big plans for the season ahead, and those plans get put in motion here in spring season. “We are really working on being louder on the court, cheering more and talking to each other more,” said Falkenhagen. “We are working on those communication pieces. I always tell the team to talk to each other, not to the ball. So, they are figuring out what that is and developing the new culture and excitement. They’re getting after the competitive part of it as well. I tell the team all the time, ‘This is your time to figure out not only me, and for me to figure out you, but also to get ahead of the game before the new class comes in.’ So, we are just working on a lot of everything at the moment.”
Their spring season is only the beginning. The team reports back to campus for their preseason training in the middle of August and Coach Falkenhagen has plans already underway. “Unfortunately, Bjorklunden doesn’t work this year because of the day we report,” she said. “However, we are going to do a team building day. It’s going to be leadership training, maybe a barbecue and just kind of have some fun that day. We are going to scrimmage, but it’s not going to be during that time. We do, however, have a home scrimmage coming up before our season starts.”
With so many big plans in a brand-new place, Coach Falkenhagen has an unlimited list of things to be excited for. However, when asked, her response was all about building up the future success of the program. “What I’m really excited about is that this is a really big volleyball area,” she said. “Club ball is pretty big in this area and down in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. So, the opportunities for the program to grow are huge. Our camps are almost already full. I have never been able to have a full summer camp, but because there are so many volleyball players in the area, there’s so much interest. This also helps the recruiting piece and getting the school’s name out there. So, that is very exciting to me. We can actually build this culture of volleyball and excitement and it’s already in the area.” It helps that the conference that Lawrence is in is extremely competitive in regards to volleyball. It’s extremely high-intensity, but it’s not untouchable. As Coach Falkenhagen put it, “It’s anybody’s year or anybody’s game every year.”
The new coach has only one request from the Viking volleyball fan base: “Just enjoy it. Get into it and enjoy it. Feel free to reach out to me or the team if you have any questions. I want to make the game more exciting for the fans to really get involved.”
The team continues to work hard on and off the court. They are building new relationships and creating an environment to thrive in. It all starts here. New season. New coach. Endless possibilities.