The Albion College women’s volleyball team (5-16, 1-11) has seen significant progress in their past two seasons. Head coach Kristin Slamer-de St. Aubin has been the catalyst of the team’s recent growth.
“I was planning on not playing after my sophomore year, and she changed that,” said Haley Gitre, Commerce Township senior.
Gitre is a senior captain on the volleyball team and has been excited about Coach Slamer-de St. Aubin’s mentality since day one.
“I believed in the vision she had,” Gitre said.
Slamer-de St. Aubin is in her second season as the volleyball coach, and the team has already seen major improvement on the court and in the locker room.
In her first recruiting class, she brought in 16 first-years, who have produced in key matches this season. She has some big plans ahead for the program.
The volleyball team is very young right now, currently fielding only two seniors and four juniors. With a lot of youth on the team, the competition levels have been soaring.
“It’s much more intense and competitive at practice,” said Caitlin McClorey, Wixom junior. “Anyone can take any position at any given time, and that’s never happened before.”
It is a good sign the first-years are putting pressure on the upperclassmen to step up, because those first years are the future of the team.
“We’re in a rebuilding phase right now, but I hope to be in the top four of the conference in the next one to two years,” Slamer-de St. Aubin said.
Before Slamer-de St. Aubin was selected as the women’s volleyball coach, the team struggled on the court. From 2010 to 2011, the team only managed to win seven matches. This year alone, they have already won five matches, including their first conference win since September 2009.
Even though the women’s volleyball team has not seen many wins right away, they have been in many close battles.
“We need to turn the corner in moments that we are really close in,” Slamer-de St. Aubin said. “Our record doesn’t really show how close and competitive we are in so many matches, but it just makes us that much more excited for the future of this program.”
The Britons came up short against Calvin College (24-0, 12-0), the number one ranked team in the nation. Before facing the Britons, Calvin had not lost a set in 15 consecutive matches. The Britons were able to take the third set of the match, winning 25-22.
“It felt amazing to take a set from the number one team in the nation,” McClorey said. “It was the best feeling with the energy in the gym and especially our fans.”
The support for the Britons against Calvin was at a different level. The women’s volleyball team received support from fellow athletes from the men’s basketball team, the men’s soccer team, as well as many other supporters.
By the end of the match, which almost went to a fifth set, students were even chanting “overrated” to the Calvin side.
Perhaps the crowd was getting a little carried away, but the volleyball girls loved every second in that moment.
Calvin had only lost three previous sets all year. One was taken from Wartburg College, the 15th ranked team in the nation and the other two from Pacific Lutheran University, the 21st ranked team.
“It was the happiest I’ve ever been after losing,” Gitre said.
Slamer-de St. Aubin also touched up on the fan base at games this year.
“When we beat Adrian this year, I don’t think Kresge has ever been that loud, especially since I’ve been coaching here,” Slamer-de St. Aubin said.
The Britons volleyball team has taken major steps in the last two years, proving they can play with the best of them, and they are only looking forward.
The women’s volleyball team will be hosting their senior night against Trine University on Oct. 29, in the Kresge Gymnasium at 6:30 pm.