In every sport and on every team, there are players who lead by example on the playing field. For Oregon volleyball, one of those leaders on the court is Lindsey Vander Weide — and she is only a sophomore.
This season, the freshmen have made an immediate impact. From Jolie Rasmussen and Ronika Stone to Brooke van Sickle and Willow Johnson, the first-year student-athletes are running the show on the court at Matthew Knight Arena. Part of their success has come from the successful leadership Vander Weide has provided during her second year in Eugene.
“The freshmen are amazing this season,” Vander Weide said. “I definitely think they should be higher than the No. 2-ranked class. They’re coming in and doing more than their job. They’re being able to play all the time in places that we need them and when we need them.”
Vander Weide played a substantial role for the Ducks last season. She was the second leading hitter on the team with 3.21 kills per set, second leading player in digs at 2.28 digs per game and second on the team with 21 service aces. Now, she is considered a veteran on a team full of underclassmen.
“[Vander Weide] has changed her serve,” head coach Jim Moore said of her service game. “She’s not spinning it. She’s jump-serving. She’s also leading us in aces so that’s good.”
This season, Vander Weide is stepping into a new role as a leader of the team. In the Ducks’ Pac-12 opener against Oregon State, the outside hitter played the entire match, but Moore is still rotating the team throughly with consistent back-to-back matches.
“We’ve got to play back-to-back and be ready every single night,” Moore said. “Lindsey [Vander Weide] played the whole match. … It’s such a huge advantage that we’re this deep and we can get people in and out.”
The Turlock, California, native tied her career-high 25 kills in the match against California. Vander Weide recorded her fifth double-double of the season and the Ducks won their ninth straight match.
“I’ve been really working on hitting different parts of the court,” Vander Weide said. “I think that’s what I did [against Cal]. I was able to hit cross and I was able to hit line as well. I’ve been working on that in practice with the setters, so I think that just clicked in that game.”
So far, Oregon has not played against the strongest opponents in the Pac-12, starting conference play against three of the lowest ranked teams in Oregon State, California and Arizona State, who the Ducks face next along with Arizona. Oregon had no trouble starting the season strong, notching nine straight wins after opening losses to then ranked No. 2 Texas and No. 10 Florida. Overall, the Ducks and Vander Weide feel confident about where they’re at.
“We have a good amount of confidence right now but of course we need to keep practicing really hard. It gets harder from here on out,” Vander Weide said. “We’re going to have to work extra hard on the road.”
Follow Shawn Medow on Twitter @ShawnMedow