Sep. 16-17 saw the annual Viking Volleyball tournament hosted at Alexander Gymnasium. Lawrence played host to Maranatha Baptist University, Mount Mary University, Rockford University and Northland College as they sought to get their season on track after a slow start to the year. Unfortunately, the Vikings went 0-3 across their three matches, but there were signs of progress among the young squad.
An hour after a loss in straight sets to Maranatha, the Vikings bounced back to put up a great fight against the much-fancied Northland College team across the court. This time they were able to push the match to four sets and had Northland on their heels for much of the second and third sets. Northland won the first set convincingly at 25-10, leading to fears that this match could go quickly like the previous one. However, that was not to be the case, as major performances from Kylie Naylor, Hilirie McLaughlin and Aliana Butler-Gray, among others, saw the Vikings turn the tide and take the second set, frustrating Northland into multiple timeouts. This trend continued into the third set, with the Vikings up as many as eight points at one stage and leading 21-16 as the set neared an end. Unfortunately, the momentum of the game shifted once more as another Northland timeout and an adjustment to their system of play led to a 9-1 run from the visitors, and Lawrence dropped the third set 25-22. One more set was enough for the Lumberjacks to take the win.
The following match day led to more of the same, with Lawrence battling hard only to succumb to more efficient opponents. The team’s third match came against Rockford, and ended up being quite the up-and-down clash. The teams traded blows through the first four sets, with all four being decided by at least eight points, and three decided by double digit margins. The fifth set saw the tired Vikings fall just short, with the visitors scoring the final eight points to take the match in five sets. The Vikings’ final match came against Mount Mary, a team that had previously beaten the Vikings in straight sets. Despite the fatigue of having played three tough matches in 24 hours, Lawrence again showed signs of improvement, this time taking the Blue Angels to four sets, with three of those sets being decided by four points or less.
Moving forward, despite the team’s poor record, there is much to be positive about. Junior Dana Mestey looks like an all-conference standout, with double-digit assists and digs in each of the Vikings’ games this weekend. Elsewhere, the sophomore class is stepping up big time, with McLaughlin and Butler-Gray both consistently between 7 and 10 kills per game, as is first-year Kylie Naylor, and first-year Mikala Seymour, who is steadily climbing in her blocks count. Libero Kali Pfannerstil is a defensive rock, and Daphne Piotrowski and Taylor Hughes provide valuable cover in rotation. Senior Marife Entenza is back from an early season ankle injury to provide leadership and great defense as well as a consistently strong serve. This team is still very young, with all but Entenza returning next year, leaving coach Kim Falkenhagen with the foundations for a very successful team not only next year, but perhaps, if the team catches stride at the right time, in conference play this season.