Photo by Laura Cramer
Look at the upcoming schedule for the volleyball team and it might appear daunting. However, Coach Kari Thompson and powerhouse duo Emily Minnick and Emily Miron, as well as the rest of the six other seniors, aren’t worried. In fact, they believe the challenging schedule is what they need to be ready for one last hurrah at the Summit League Tournament.
After falling to South Dakota in the Summit League Tournament last year, Thompson believes the 2016 season will be the big push for the volleyball team to go all the way. With eight seniors heading into this season, Thompson and the rest of the team are riding the coattails of those seniors.
“We tell those eight (seniors), ‘We go where they go,’” said Thompson. “They’re a significant part. With eight, that’s half our team. Where they decide is where we’ll follow and go. Those expectations are that we go out, we win and compete hard.”
Thankfully, the team won’t be hitting the road as much this year. The dozen home matches will be highlighted by the NDSU Classic tournament happening in September that will see Texas Tech, Northern Illinois and Bradley coming to Fargo. This is a huge perk for their season.
“Home matches are huge, especially in a venue like ours and in front of our home crowd,” said Thompson. “We play a challenging schedule but if you have to go on the road to play that challenging schedule, that’s going to be even harder for preseason. To get some of those good matches at home is huge.”
In fact, the Bentson Bunker Fieldhouse has added a new amenity that will make volleyball matches that much better. For the first time in recent history, the BBF has air conditioning. This will make the Fieldhouse an even better environment for the matches.
“Home games are so much fun,” said Minnick. “You can’t even begin to fathom how you feel when you’re out on the court. Bison Nation is so great. We just have a family type of environment here. I love playing in it.”
Thompson is hoping for that fan support to grow this year. With an average attendance of more than 700 people per game last year, NDSU volleyball already has a strong following, which is different than many schools.
“The fans have always been there,” said Thompson. “It’s such a good tradition and it has such strong support. It’s fun to be somewhere (where) volleyball matters. There are a lot of places that I have friends at that that’s not the case. That’s something that we remind them to not take it for granted.”
While their collegiate career is coming to a close, honorable mention all-league middle hitters Minnick and Miron’s volleyball career is most likely not coming to an end. Minnick, who graduates in December, is considering playing volleyball overseas before continuing her education with occupational therapy or school counseling. Miron is looking to switch things up next year by going to a school where she can play beach volleyball before going to grad school for physical therapy.
After four years together, it’s evident the coaches and players have become close. And, like all collegiate athletes, Minnick believes she is leaving a better person after spending so much time with Thompson.
“We used to be little saplings and then we grew into trees,” said Minnick. “And I think we’re still trees. I think we’re still grounded.”