After dominating the Iowa Conference in the regular and post seasons a year ago, the Wartburg volleyball team is looking to start this season where they left off.
After graduating only three seniors, the Knights volleyball squad returns most of their starters from last season. One of the most pivotal pieces of the team’s success last season is the defending conference MVP, Aryn Jones. Jones is a senior this year, and she has stepped up to the plate (or net, if you will) and become a leader for her younger teammates. Jones said she feels somewhat obligated, but she’s fully embracing her new role.
“I’m enjoying all of it; meeting all the new girls and seeing their passion. I’m excited to see how they’re going to develop over the next four years,” Jones said.
Another key returner this season is junior “setter” Mallory Erbes. Perhaps one of the most versatile players in the conference, Erbes can play any position on the floor, and posted two triple-doubles last season as a result. She wasn’t exactly high on the radar before last season, but Erbes said she’s excited to see what her being cemented into the starting lineup will bring.
“This year I have a lot more confidence, having a better idea of what my role is going to be,” Erbes said. “I’ll do whatever the team needs me for. I want to give as much as I can whenever I can, and I’m excited to have a better idea of what’s going on going into the year. I’m excited for the potential we have as a team.”
Despite retaining most of the major players, there is one major part of last year’s success that will not be returning this season. All-conference libero Katheryn Nasby transferred to Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota to play at the Division II level. Nasby left some big shoes to fill, but Walker said she has no worries in finding a replacement. Right now, Walker said, it’s between freshman Katie Foster and senior Bre Bader.
“Bre has improved tremendously from last year, and she’s acting like a senior. She’s got confidence out there, she has experience. Katie is coming in with raw talent and athleticism. She’s quick, she reads well. She’s still getting used to the college game, but, man, she looks really good.”
The Knights open their season with six straight games away from home before returning to Levick Arena for the annual Knights Classic on Sept. 15-16. Despite not playing for a home crowd for several matches, Jones said being on the road can only help the team going forward.
“We’re starting off in Nashville playing teams we know nothing about, so that’s always a good challenge,” Jones said. “Then learning from those experiences and bringing them back at Loras and Northwestern gets us prepped and ready for our home games.”
The first home game of the season is on Friday, Sept. 15 at 7:30 against Augsburg.