Review staff writer
Linfield volleyball finished fourth in the Northwest Conference with a 9-7 record.
Junior middle blocker Emily Vuylsteke gained all-conference status after a vote from the NWC coaches. Vuylsteke had a league-best .325 hitting percentage. Three other Linfield women, junior setter Stephanie Purser and freshmen outside hitters Samantha Lau and Tara Hill, received honorable mentions for their performances.
Lau had an outstanding debut season, leading from the service line and ranking fourth in the conference with .37 service aces per game. Lau accounted for 166 kills to rank second on the team, and an average of 4.03 digs per game, making her eligible as the leader in that category.
“After playing this season, I have some high expectations for the next,” Lau said. “I expect that we will continue to have a winning season and that we will work toward our goal of making it to playoffs
at the regional section while improving our standing. For the benefit of the team, I will try to do whatever is thrown at me.”
While these four athletes played an amazing season, there were other women on the court worth noticing. Freshman right side defensive hitter Jordan Johnson improved her hitting ability on the court.
“I felt the season went well,” Johnson said. “I haven’t played volleyball for very long, and I didn’t really know what to expect. The coaches were awesome, the girls were awesome and I learned how to be more consistent in my front-row hitting. I think we all work well together as a team and energy had a big part in that.”
At the start of the season, the team was unsure how well it would connect and cooperate.
Johnson said one of their team goals was to do well, defining “doing well” as working as a team, not just individually. For Johnson, this meant her communication skills would be tackled first.
Even though the team defeated Lewis & Clark College, one of the conference’s co-champions, the ’Cats knew their progress would decline if they did not continue to set day-to-day goals.
The process of watching the team improve took on the model of training to the highest standard in practice and watching the outcome in games.
“It was a daily goal of mine to try to be louder on the court, especially when I was trying to communicate and execute strategies with my team,” Johnson said. “I am not a very loud person by nature, but by the end of the season, I felt I was meeting my goals, and that probably would not have happened if the team wasn’t as supportive of each other’s goals.”
Head coach Shane Kimura encouraged the women to pair up with each other as a way to make them more aware of their teammates’ ambitions. Kimura said he hoped this activity would help to force the players to become accountable for their goals.
“He will probably continue this activity because it definitely helped us to pay attention to our own goals,” Johnson said.
The ’Cats made rapid improvements in their hitting and communication skills under the eye of Kimura, who actively forced the team to pay more attention to its goals.
Johnson said the ’Cats hope to limit uncomfortable silences on the court, such as the ones they experienced while playing against both Willamette and Pacific universities. The matches took place in two of the quietest gyms of the 2008 season.
“That awkward, silent atmosphere is more difficult to play in, and it seems to be harder to get communication going on the court,” Johnson said. “Those environments were probably partly because of our fourth-place ranking this season. I have faith next season will be even more amazing.”
The ’Cats are working hard to eliminate some of their flaws and possibly their competition in next year’s NWC Championships by addressing their inconsistencies in defensive hitting and communication.