After a state tournament appearance in 2021, the Southwest Christian volleyball team is looking for similar success in 2022.
The Stars’ approach to this season, however, has changed as they are emphasizing effort over results. The team lost several talented players from last year’s roster to graduation, and while the squad this fall has plenty of talent, head coach Jessy Tow-Arnett wants the Stars’ to focus on their work ethic.
“We’ve been talking about the difference between being a great team and good team, knowing we have to work for every single point and that the other team is not just going to roll over for you,” Tow-Arnett said at the beginning of the season.
Many players bought into their coach’s message, including senior middle blocker Annika Veurink.
“If this team is going to be even better than last year, let’s push each other to be the best you can be, give 100% of what you can give all the time,” Veurink said. “If you can give 80%, give 100% of that 80%, otherwise you’re not taking full advantage of natural talent.”
Despite having years of varsity experience, including last year, senior middle blocker Mehlayna Straub is only concerned with how this team does rather than looking back to other teams.
“A goal is not trying to live in the shadow of last year’s team,” Straub said. “We definitely have different strengths and weaknesses, so I want to make a new path with the new team we have.”
Southwest Christian is a unique high school team in that Veurink and Straub are more involved in the offense as middle blockers than other teams. Both players appreciate the opportunity they have to play with each other.
“[Straub] is such an athlete all the way around that both me and her are set more than other middle blockers at a high school level,” Veurink said. “It’s so cool and I’m lucky to have her as a tandem middle and also run a great offense for middle blockers hitting.”
“I think it’s really cool we’re in the same position because we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” Straub said. “I love my bond with [Veurink] and we know each other really well which is really good.”
At 10-6, the Stars are the No. 6-ranked team in Class 2A as of Sept. 25. Southwest Christian has played only one Wright County conference match, a 3-0 win over Jordan Sept. 15, but the Stars have five upcoming conference matches.
One way the Stars have been tested is playing multiple matches against teams in Class 3A and Class 4A, including teams like Chaska, Eden Prairie, Chanhassen and Shakopee.
“We normally wouldn’t play them, so I’m glad we’re put in these situations,” junior outside hitter Taylor Miedema said. “It helps us grow and learn so much going against bigger teams.”
Miedema has also enjoyed the relationships the team has created throughout the season, whether it is on the court or in the Southwest Christian lunch room during a school day.
“We value being together so much. No matter what situation we’re in we find a way to make it fun and enjoyable,” Miedema said. “Most of the fun times we have are when we’re together, and we genuinely care about each other. You don’t find that in other teams.”
Southwest Christian traded sets with Benilde-St. Margaret’s, but it was the Red Knights who came away with a 3-2 victory Sept. 19. The Stars then competed in the Minnesota High School Volleyball Showcase Sept. 23-24, finishing 4-1 in the tournament.