Volleyball takes first in weekend tournament fifth year in a row

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In 2009, the St. Thomas volleyball team had a share of the MIAC title and reached the NCAA tournament round of 16.

This year’s team, ranked No. 8 nationwide by the American Volleyball Coaches’ Association, is looking to repeat those accomplishments.

The Tommies’ first tournament of the season was held Sept. 3-4 in Springfield, Ohio. The Tommies lost 3-0 to Wittenburg in the first match, but the team came back to win 3-1 against Cal Lutheran. The team finished the weekend with a 3-1 loss to Wisconsin-Whitewater.

This past weekend, the Tommies took first for the fifth year in a row at the Augsburg tournament. The team beat Macalester 3-0 and Northwestern 3-0 Friday. The team defeated Central (Iowa) 3-0 and Wisconsin-Eau Claire 3-2 in the final match Saturday, earning a tournament record of 4-0.

Though it’s still early in the season, coach Thanh Pham said he predicts good things for this year’s team.

“I think that if we play to our strengths and use our experience, we should make a deep run into the NCAA tournament,” Pham said.

Senior captain Emily Foster said she hopes the team earns a spot in the national tournament.

“We didn’t outright win the conference and didn’t win the conference tournament [last year] so we had to wait to see if we could get a bid to the national tournament,” Foster said. “We don’t want to leave any unanswered questions there.”

The Tommie defense should contribute to the team’s success and the Tommie offense also has “a very balanced attack and can attack teams in different ways,” Pham said.

He added that he has no specific goals for the team except “to be the hardest working St. Thomas team ever. The winning and losing will take care of itself.”

The team plays St. Olaf Wednesday in its first-ever game in the new Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex. St. Olaf will be a good challenge for the Tommies, Foster said.

“They’re going to be really good, so that’s going to be a big test for us,” Foster said. “It’ll be really fun to play there on Wednesday. I haven’t been nervous for a game since I can remember, but I’m nervous for Wednesday.”

Valerie Turgeon can be reached at turg4604@stthomas.edu.