The first Augustana Vikings Men’s home volleyball game of the Winter 11-week term kicked off at 8:00 PM on the 1st of February, 2020. The Vikings played against the Concordia Thunder, who won the game with a total score of 3-2. The first two sets of the game were won by the opponent, with the Vikings only falling short by a couple of points. The respective box scores for each of the two sets were 25-20. As the game progressed, the Vikings put in substantial effort to make a great comeback, winning the following set with a score of 20-25. This raised the intensity of the game as our team began to catch up to the Thunder. The Vikings also won the next set with a score of 22-25, tying the games won per team. This led the game into an intense fifth and final set, in which the Vikings just fell short, by a score of 16-14. Although our team lost the game, the players did not give up and strived throughout the game to try their best to win. The MVP of the Augustana Vikings was awarded to Greg Kaliel who scored a total of 16 points, the highest total of any player in the game.

After the game, I had the opportunity to interview the co-captains of the team, Owen Murray and Thomas Zimmerman. When asked how the games went, both players had much to say. Murray said that “it was an inconsistent game” and Zimmerman said that “it was a tough battle to five sets, falling just short in the fifth set.”

Following up, when asked what they hoped to achieve in this game, Zimmerman further elaborated that they hoped to beat Concordia as they were currently in a three-way tie with them but failed to do so, as they couldn’t play to their full potential. Moreover, the co-captains were asked how they thought they performed, as well as how they thought the rest of their teammates performed. Murray stated that he “struggled the same as the team during the first and second sets as (they) started slow but managed to pick up the pace in the third and fourth sets, but could not hold it for the fifth.” Additionally, Zimmerman stated that “as a libero, I only focus on the defensive side of the game. From a serve-receive standpoint, I thought that I played very well. Jonah and I did a lot of 2-man serve-receives, pinching Owen out in order to allow him to focus on hitting, while the two of us focused on passing. We were able to run our offense effectively due to the quality of our passing and ending the fourth set with a perfect pass which allowed for Evan and Duncan to run a right-side x-ball. Speaking on the defensive side of things, I thought I was doing a good job picking up a lot of balls with 16 digs throughout the match, bringing me up to second in the North for total digs in the league. Meanwhile, looking at the team, our middles did a great job offensively, being stopped only a couple of times throughout the game. Our other hitters were on and off throughout the game. From a blocking standpoint, we had our moments but also let a couple of balls through, making it hard to play defense. We have struggled with this throughout the year as we have 3 setters, all with little experience in the ACAC, so trying to find a good connection all-around has been a struggle we are striving to overcome.”

Proceeding with the interview, the co-captains gave some thoughts on potential weaknesses of the team. “We struggled with forgetting our little errors. That’s why we were unsuccessful in Friday’s match, and part of Saturday’s match,” Murray said. Thomas added: “Our strong suit is definitely that mid-game chunk where we tend to dominate, but struggle during the start and finish of the game, while tending to battle hard to catch up throughout the game. Once the score hits 20 we tend to tense up and make errors in our gameplay. Not being able to close out at the end of the sets makes it hard to win games.”

When asked what they would’ve liked to improve upon, Murray said that they “needed to improve on resetting after making small mistakes on the court.” Instead, he wished that the players could move on and get their heads back in the game. Zimmerman further supported this by stating that the players needed to “work on their mental game as it is something they have been struggling with lately.” He believes they are a strong team and could definitely win more games but falter ever so often when they mentally fall apart.

Concluding this interview, and to gain some perspective on the players’ roles, the co-captains were asked to highlight some of the responsibilities they might have and how they worked towards achieving them. To this, Murray replied, “The one thing I need to continue to work towards is the team’s intensity. We may be out of the playoffs this year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t compete in order to become a better team for next year,” and Zimmerman replied, “A big part of being a captain is just looking out for the others on the team and helping them where it’s needed. The biggest responsibility is to effectively communicate from coach to players.”

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