While there have been many fall sports teams that have had stellar seasons, the Hopkins volleyball team has been the shining star of the Hopkins athletic department this year. The Blue Jays went through a rigorous 27 match regular season and emerged undefeated before continuing their winning streak in the Centennial Conference Tournament and the first three rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
Several members of the team have had standout performances, but junior setter/middle blocker Natalie Aston has been a huge part of the team’s success this season and was crucial in last weekend’s three-match stretch against Manhattanville, Stockton and Stevens. Aston’s performance this year has resulted in several awards, including being named to the All-Tournament team this past weekend, becoming one of the first two Hopkins players named as a first-team AVCA All-American and receiving Centennial Conference Player of the Year honors.
As Aston and the team prepare to head to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. for the NCAA quarterfinals, The News-Letter spoke with Aston about her thoughts on the season and what Hopkins volleyball means to her.
The News-Letter: How did you feel entering the NCAA Tournament?
Natalie Aston: We were super excited entering this past weekend with the chance to extend our season. Being back in Goldfarb and playing in front of friends and family was an extremely special opportunity. We were all grateful and pumped to be able to compete at home one last weekend.
N-L: How have you felt about your performances this year in general?
NA: This year has been a memorable season in every way possible, and I am so proud of the way our team has grown with each practice and game. Our passion to get better and love of the game has driven our development.
N-L: How do you feel now about your performances in the tournament, having been named to the All-Tournament team for regionals?
NA: It was great to be back for this weekend’s regional tournament after missing the Centennial Conference Championship! Nothing compares to being on the court with your teammates and competing hard in Goldfarb.
N-L: Are there any plays you remember in particular that you’re very proud of, for yourself or for your team? Any kills that were particularly important?
NA: Thinking back on this weekend, I’d have to say that the one play that really sticks out is Lauren Anthony’s block to win the second set against Stevens. It had been back and forth for the previous few points, and any team could’ve taken that set.
It was awesome to hear Goldfarb erupt as the ball hit the floor and then party really hard in our celebratory huddle. It also gave us some good momentum going into the third set.
All of our hitters contributed at key moments, which really helped keep their blockers guessing. I could throw a set back to Eleni one play to put it away then switch it up to Lulu on the next. Simone also did an amazing job of taking aggressive swings when the score was tight. She was fearless and helped us get out of some tough situations.
N-L: How do you feel going forward in the tournament? Any teams you’re particularly looking forward to facing?
NA: The main emotion running through us right now is gratitude. We all know this has been an exceptionally special team to be a part of, and we are just grateful to have the chance to play together at least one more time. We’re focused on St. Benedict right now and trying to take in the entire experience one day at a time.
N-L: What are your feelings being such an important part of such an outstanding team this year?
NA: I am so grateful and honored to be a part of this team and represent Hopkins Volleyball. We have had so many people contribute to our growth and success, like our trainers, Sarah and Carly, and our Strength and Conditioning Coach, Jon, and it has been the bonds we’ve formed in our tight-knit group that have made every day a blast. I have a lot of love for this Hopkins Volleyball family and I could not have asked for a better season.