For the first time in program history, the Lawrence University Volleyball Team has qualified for the conference tournament. The team ended the regular season fourth in the conference standings, just good enough to make the tournament, which is comprised of the top four teams at the end of the season. Cornell College won the regular season title and will host the conference tournament.
Going into their last two conference games, a road trip to Iowa to face Grinnell and Cornell, the Lady Vikes controlled their own destiny. If they won both games they were guaranteed a spot in the tournament. Unfortunately, the team lost both games; however, the goal of making the conference tournament was still possible it would just be decided by other teams. To make the tournament, the Lady Vikes needed St. Norbert to beat Ripon. The volleyball team got just what it wished for on Oct. 26 as St. Norbert beat Ripon in straight sets.
Lawrence and Ripon ended the conference season with the same record, 5-4, but the Lady Vikes won the head-to-head matchup, giving them the edge and the monumental fourth seed.
While making the conference tournament is a high point for the volleyball team, the season was not all smooth sailing. The Lady Vikes had their fair share of struggles early on. Despite the difficulties, the team never lost sight of their goal, making the conference tournament. “We always play a really tough preseason, playing teams that are ranked in the top 25 in the nation. It always really challenges us and pushes us to our brink sometimes. We had a rough couple of first conference games but I think we just kind of recollected ourselves at the beginning of the next week. And we just said that the past is in the past and we we’re completely out of the conference tournament yet and that’s been our goal since before this season even started. So I think we just stayed focused and pushed forward” reflected junior Colleen Nowlan.
The goal of making the conference tournament is not exclusive to just this year’s team. Many teams before have been looking for the elusive first conference tournament appearance in program history. This only sweetens the experience: “Every time I think about it I get goosebumps. I think back to my freshman year and how the conference tournament has always been the goal and sometimes it seemed unreachable at times. So to be at a point where its definitely been reached and it could go beyond is just amazing” said Nowlan.
While the team is enjoying their accomplishment, they know that there is still volleyball yet to be played. The conference tournament takes place on Nov. 4 and 5, with semifinal action on Friday the 4th and the final on Saturday the 5th. The Lady Vikes (11-15, 5-4 MWC) will face the number-one-ranked Cornell Rams (19-6, 9-0 MWC) who went undefeated in conference play this season. The Lady Vikes know it will be a big game, but they are ready. “I think we are just hoping to play the best we can. Last time we played Cornell we kind of gave them a run for their money so I think we’re hoping to just keep pushing them and keep making them earn their points because we deserve it just as much as they do” expressed Nowlan.
Winning the conference tournament would be icing on the cake. Right now the team is savoring the moment of finally making the tournament and hoping to have their best performance of the season on Friday when they take on Cornell.