Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Men’s volleyball digs into a killer season

Ngan Vu
Junior Zach Moreano hits the ball in the home game against St. Ambrose University at Roy J. Carver Center on Feb. 21. The Vikings won the game with a score of 3-2 against the Fighting Bees.

The men’s volleyball team has been set into high gear since the beginning of the season. This the best record the team has seen since the program began in 2018. The team has been on a nine-game win streak this season. They have only taken one loss to date after a tough battle against the Milwaukee School of Engineering in January.

The College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW) player of the week, senior Ben Schultz, believes that part of their success has been the trust that they have built within the team. Trust is a huge part of volleyball because players can only touch the ball once, and rely on their teammates to get the ball over the net. 

“You are trusting that each person on the court is giving their best and giving their all, and when we do that, we do not have to worry about the mistakes as much,” Schultz said.

Junior Sean Carlson credits a large part of this team’s success this season to Head Coach Mike Ducey. Carlson is a starting outside hitter who has made great strides for this volleyball team so far this season, even going as far as playing with broken fingers. Ducey has been a bit more strict with the team, preparing them for the harder challenges that they face later in the season.  

“I think [our] coach has tightened his grip on us a lot this season,” Carlson said. “He makes us run and he makes sure to make us disciplined.”

With that in mind, the Vikings have been on a roll and have hopes to continue this streak into conference play next Saturday against the North Central Cardinals. The last ten games of the Vikings’ season are all games within the CCIW. 

Augustana Men’s Volleyball players celebrated after scoring against Fontbonne University on Feb. 17 at Roy J. Carver Center. (Ngan Vu)

“The CCIW for men’s volleyball is honestly the hardest conference there is,” Carlson said. “It’s going to be a good year for conference play, because I feel like we are going to have a lot of good matchups.”

With preparing for conference play comes harder, more focused practices. Ducey has been increasing stamina and energy within practice to prepare for some hard battles against top-ranked seeds in the conference.

“He’s running us hard,” Carlson said. “When it comes to practices, he’s looking to increase our stamina so that we can play for longer because we are assuming that when we go into conference play, we are playing against good teams. We’re gonna need to be able to compete at a high level for a long time.”

Junior right-side hitter Garret McNelis has also noticed a change in practice intensity. McNelis is focused on the errors that are made and how they can fix them, rather than just skipping over them and continuing to the next thing. 

“Our practices are very competitive, and it pushes a lot of people to achieve great things that they might have not known they could do,” McNelis said. “We get pushed a lot in practice, and I think it shows a lot; we have grown a lot as a team compared to less.” 

As an upperclassman on the team, McNelis has seen great growth, which is part of the team’s success this season. 

With great play also comes improvements that the team can make as a whole. No matter how good a team is, there is always something to improve upon — no team is completely perfect. One improvement that was discussed would be energy on the court. 

“The big goal is to just amp up the energy every day, try to give 1% better each day,” McNelis said. “We’re just fine-tuning what we already have made.”

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