By having more games this season, the volleyball team was able to make history this season. For the first time, the volleyball team was regionally ranked.
With the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions becoming more relaxed, the Albion College women’s volleyball team is able to have more of a “normal” season compared to last year.
“I think the thing that makes it the most normal is us being back on a 26 match schedule where we are playing a lot of matches and having less practice time whereas last year we practiced a ton,” said Kristen Slamer-de St. Aubin, Albion College’s head volleyball coach.
Going back to having a 26 match schedule lets the seniors feel like they were able to have a more complete final season.
“Finishing the season last year was such an incomplete feeling,” said Grace VanDorn, West Aurora, Ill. fifth year senior. “We got to play so few games, like less than half the amount of games we played this season. You just had to hold your breath and hope you made it to the next game and that you were allowed to play and that you didn’t have to quarantine.”
With coming back for a fifth year, VanDorn was able to become a part of what the team hopes to be a new norm for the program.
“I think over my ten years we have accomplished a lot of firsts and we are just excited to make that the norm,” said Slamer-de St. Aubin. “You know that’s where we wanna be. We talk about playing quality opponents, playing some of the best teams in the country on a regular basis and so it’s nice to see our strength in schedule is being recognized.”
In the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) conference, the conference Albion volleyball plays in, has two nationally ranked teams. Hope College is ranked sixth nationally and Calvin University is ranked fifth.
“Being an Albion alum myself, you know, I really love Albion,” said Slamer-de St. Aubin. “I wanted to come back and coach for my alma mater. I think that we want every player to leave a legacy in some way, whether that’s a first team all conference person or whether you are someone who spends more time trying to develop and become a practice player. Leaving a legacy for great team culture, living, breathing what our program is on and off the court.”
Though the volleyball team has put in the work throughout the years to achieve this goal of being regionally ranked, the work doesn’t stop there.
“I think it’s a goal,” said Slamer-de St. Aubin. “Rankings don’t guarantee you anything right. So we don’t try to, like I mentioned a sentence at practice, like, ‘hey we got regionally ranked,’ and that’s awesome for us but the road gets harder from here because now everybody knows that we are a regionally ranked team.”
Each year the volleyball team works to become stronger and achieve more firsts.
“We just keep getting better and I am so excited for girls here now and the girls coming in the future and to be able to continue to build,” said VanDorn. “So it makes me a little bit jealous that I won’t be here longer.”
In her senior season, VanDorn became the first volleyball player in team history to achieve 3,000 career assists and obtain the school record for career assists.
“I was just really happy for her to achieve that milestone because we really wanted her to accomplish that last year,” said Slamer-de St. Aubin. ”If we had a regular year, we would have accomplished it in four years.”
Since the season was cut in half during the spring, VanDorn was given as many opportunities as she would have in a regular season to achieve these career marks.
“You can kinda project in a three set where the setters will be,” said Slamer-de St. Aubin. “You kinda know going in they are probably going to get it unless something happens or we don’t play well. But for us to win a volleyball game, your setters have to get assists because of kills. Your kills and assists should be similar. So usually setters are going to be in between fifteen to twenty assists in a match, so you kinda know that going in.”
Unlike Slamer-de St. Aubin, VanDorn had no idea when she completed the assist that she had achieved the milestone.
“I had an idea that it was happening over the weekend,” said VanDorn. “I didn’t know the game and I definitely didn’t know the point. My teammates did because my coach did, but I did not. So I was a bit confused on the court when people screamed. Jesse got the kill and I was like, ‘yeah Jesse,’ and then everyone was smacking me and I was like, ‘I don’t know what you guys are doing.’”
In the game that VanDorn got the 3,000 career mark, Slamer-de St. Aubin had a countdown on the sidelines.
“My coach knew and my assistant coach knew and they had told the girls that were on the side like ‘two more’ or like ‘one more’ and yeah I was not kept in that loop,” said VanDorn.
As a coach, Slamer-de St. Aubin likes to view personal achievements as team achievements because in the team sport of volleyball, you need your team to be able to get to those milestones.
“I think it was more of when she hit 3,000, our team knew more of what to celebrate,” said Slamer-de St. Aubin. “I think the career milestone one, I don’t talk about those things ahead of time because I really just want it to be all about team and especially, I think Grace does a really good job of this, if we achieve a milestone, like Jenna Khoury [Farmington Hills senior] getting player of the week, these 23 people made it possible.”
Slamer-de St. Aubin is a big believer in that the team helps to achieve all personal accomplishments.
“I just hope that going forward in the program people kinda remember the type of teammate I am and that you get places by being a good teammate and get places by building your teammates up,” said VanDorn. “You can’t do it by yourself and I hope going forward people remember that everybody that was a part of this program at this time and who has been in the last four years and then this one, so the last five seasons, has a part of that milestone and the record.”
The season finished with Khoury, and VanDorn achieving the 1,000 digs career mark. Mariah Brenz, Grand Blanc sophomore, Chloe Webber, Marshall Senior, VanDorn, and Olivia Alexander, Woodhaven senior, receiving All-MIAA team.