The Free Press, Mankato, MN

College Sports

September 9, 2010

Nicole Jones is realizing how quickly time flies

Bethany falls to Bethel in three games

MANKATO — Senior Nicole Jones probably doesn’t like being referred to as the “elder statesman” of the Bethany Lutheran College volleyball team but she does have more playing time with the Vikings than any of her 14 teammates.

Jones is one of just three seniors on the 2010 Bethany team which is coming off a 5-16 season and a 5-9 mark in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference. The Mankato East graduate, who also plays basketball at Bethany, says its difficult to grasp how quickly time has flown by.

“It’s kind of crazy,” she said. “It’s hard to fathom that I’m already a senior and this is my last year. But I know that, traditionally, seniors do well and I’m ready to do the same.”

Jones played sparingly as a freshman but is now beginning her third year as the team’s primary setter. She led Bethany with 972 sets in 99 games as a sophomore and with 524 sets in 70 games as a junior. She has also averaged a team high 23 ace serves over the past two seasons.

A sociology major, Jones says her college career, at least to this point, has been even more gratifying than expected.

“When you come in as a freshman you’re optimistic that you can play right away but it’s a difficult transition from high school,” she said. “The game is played at a faster tempo and that takes some getting used to.

“I’ve had three different coaches since I’ve been here and I’ve learned a lot from each of them. I wouldn’t have traded this experience for anything.”

Bethany’s latest coach is Sue Forrey who formerly coached at Mankato Loyola High School. So far, Jones likes what she’s seen of the first-year mentor.

“She has transitioned very well to the college game,” Jones said. “She’s runs very organized practices and that allows us to get a lot of things done. I definitely think she has pointed in the right direction.”

This year’s team, which lost to Bethel 25-16, 25-16, 25-18 on Wednesday night, returns all but one starter from a year ago — All-UMAC libero Laura Parochka has graduated — which means the Vikings won’t have to rely on a bunch of rookies to fill out their lineup.

In addition to Jones, who was honorable mention All-UMAC last year, Bethany returns its top three hitters from 2009 in sophomore right side-hitter Emily Schrupp (Mayer Lutheran), senior middle hitter Laura Holt (Maple River) and junior outside hitter Vanessa Harkins (Le Center).

Freshman Tayler Kahlow of Le Sueur was the team’s primary libero during the team’s season-opening appearance at the St. Olaf Invitational over the weekend.

Among the other newcomers fighting for playing time this year are right side hitter Erin Evans of Sibley East, middle hitter Rachel Beer of Le Center and outside hitter Heather Cassidy of Prior Lake.

The Vikings roster includes some other familiar names as well in sophomore Marcie Flygare of Minnesota Valley Lutheran, junior Klea Swenson of Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial, junior Melissa Boddy of New Ulm Cathedral, sophomore Meghan Houlihan of Waterville-Elysian-Morristown and sophomore Kerri Jones (Nicole’s younger sister) from Mankato East.

“We’re optimistic,” said Nicole Jones. “We have a nice blend of experienced and younger players. We believe we can improve on what we accomplished last year.”

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