The Labor Day Classic volleyball tournament, hosted by Grinnell, pitted the Pioneers against University of Minnesota-Morris and William Penn University on Friday, August 31, and Hamline University, Graceland University and Nebraska Wesleyan University on Saturday, September 1. Grinnell lost each of the five matches 3-0.

Photographed by Connie Lee

Although the team didn’t produce a victory, many Pioneers stood out for their commendable play.  Lindsay Fujimoto ’15 was named to the All-Tournament Team and Natalie Duncombe ’15, Olivia Fromm ’17 and Claire Weidman ’15 all had an impressive amount of kills. Madeline Warnick ’16 led the team in assists with 16.

Although they left the tournament winless, the team remained optimistic, not viewing the matches simply in terms of the numbers on the scoreboard, but instead as chances to calibrate an untested team.

“It was a challenge, but we developed a lot as a team this weekend,” said Weidman, one of the team’s captains.

Such development will be critical this season. Eight of the Pioneers’ 19 players are first-years and three are second-years who only joined the team this season.

“This [tournament] is just to give the first-years a perspective,” said head coach Jackie Hutchison. “What’s really significant to the team is the conference matches, and specifically making it to the conference tournament, because that’s the springboard to the NCAA tournament.”

Weidman stressed the tournament’s role as a learning tool as well.

“We know what we need to improve on now,” she said, also stressing how much potential each of the new players represents.

She also emphasized the importance of “appreciating the newness of this team and all the potential that [the new players] bring.”

As they adjust to collegiate play and begin to mesh with a new team, 2013’s newcomers will be guided by a strong rank of third and fourth-years. Two standouts among the upperclassmen are Weidman and Fujimoto.

“Claire and Lindsay—and all of the team—came back fit and ready to play, ready to start to do the work of making a team, versus the work of developing their physical bodies. They had already done that this summer, so now they’re ready to work on the unity and the team dynamic stuff,” Hutchison said.

Hutchison admits that this might take some time.

“It takes a little while to develop rapport with your team, and having an offense that sort of hums requires that ‘space between,’” Hutchison said.

Weidman was similarly esoteric.

“We have no limits,” she said, a sentiment that has become a slogan for the players this year.

The team will play next in a tournament hosted by University of Wisconsin-Platteville on September 6-7. Fans at home can catch the Pioneers playing on their own court on Friday, September 20, when Grinnell will challenge Buena Vista University and William Penn University.