Life on the road for Mac's vagabond volleyball team

By Daniel Kerwin

With no place on campus remaining to hold practices, the volleyball team has been borrowing the gym at Cretin Durham Hall. The team practices practice at 6:30 a.m. in order to work around the practice schedules of Cretin Durham’s sports teams. On the van ride over, the driver searches for rage music on the radio. Van time is vent time.The season has been an ongoing challenge for the players. All their games this year are on the road, making it hard for fans to come and give them support. You wouldn’t be blamed for not even knowing that the team was playing at all.

“It’s a huge challenge to have every game on the road and every practice at 6:30,” Head Coach Stephanie Schleuder said. “It’s one of those years they’ll look back on when they’re old and gray and remember the challenges.”

For the seniors it really will be hard to forget. They won’t reap the benefits of the new athletic facility – they’ve already played their last home game. They’re playing the final games of their college career hidden in obscurity.

“Because we don’t have a home gym it’s hard for friends to make games,” Co-captain Kari Tanaka ’08 said. “But there’s a fan bus this Friday so hopefully fans will make it.”

The fan bus is one of the ways in which the team is trying to get fans reacquainted with Mac Volleyball. Even if they can’t be at home, by bringing a bus load of fans the team will be bringing the best of home with them. The first fan bus will be going to the game against Bethel this afternoon. The bus leaves from the stadium at 6:30; those that make it there even get a free Mac Volleyball t-shirt.

To further reach out to fans, there will be live webcasts of the games the team plays in and around the Twin Cities. Andrea Hansen ’08, one year removed from the team, will be producing the webcasts, which should be available on the Mac athletics webpage. In total, six to eight games should be covered by the webcasts.

“It’s a lot to deal with, traveling every weekend. They’re working through it,” Hansen said. “They’ve been struggling, but now that they’re home, well at least within a five mile radius, they know that we’ll be supporting them.”

A little support would at least help to make the season more survivable for the players. Even with the early practices, players have to leave before the end to make what they used to think were early classes. For some players practice is the start of ten or eleven hour day, which then has to be followed by homework before the next morning’s practice.

“It’s hard to take night classes, because it’s an eight hour turnaround between the end of night classes and practice,” Suzy Szumowski ’09 said.

“Of course we’re all tired,” Erin Cusac ’10 adds. “I on average get five hours of sleep, but hey, it’s what happens.”

Some of the things that have happened this season have been out of the team’s control; players have been locked out of the locker rooms at the stadium in the mornings and haven’t have a reliable trainer situation until recently. But overall they were prepared for a season on the road, anticipating well ahead of time what they would need to do to make the most of it and have a successful season.

“I think we were really prepared not to have home games, motivating ourselves to take games from other teams at their home court,” Diana Petty ’09 said. “We managed to turn that around and make something positive.”

It’s the first-year players that have been simply thrust into this situation, enduring the tough schedule and trying to adjust to the team and the school all at the same time.

“The girls and everything have been great,” Kiera Coulter ’11 said of her experience so far. “It’s the other factors we didn’t anticipate.”

The team hasn’t had much success in its early matches. They won only one of four games at the Northwestern College Classic, beating North Central College. They also won only one of four at the Augsburg Invitational and since then have lost their first three MIAC matches.

There are a lot of good teams in the MIAC, but what happens from here on in is quite unpredictable. Good teams can be upset, and dishing out a couple of big upsets could be just what Macalester needs.

No matter how the season turns out though, the team will be rewarded for its patience with a very favorable schedule for next year. All of their games will be home games, held in the new athletic facility, perhaps giving the team an even greater home court advantage than the disadvantage they face this year on the road.

If you miss this afternoon’s game, you can catch them at Augsburg tomorrow, St. Kate’s on Tuesday or at Hamline on Thursday and Friday at the Minnesota-Iowa Border Battle II.