Girls’ Volleyball: Seniors Sarah Blegen and Hanna Nielsen co-captains

October 19, 2010 — by Aashna Mukerji

When most people reach their senior year, they are excited to finally be at the top of high school’s hierarchy. Seniors Sarah Blegen and Hanna Nielsen have reached this peak, but they are sharing a top leadership position as co-captains of the 11-17 girls’ varsity volleyball team.

“I think it’s a really good system because both [Nielson] and I bring different aspects to the team,” said Blegen. She praised her co-captain for taking such a leading role on the court and boosting everyone’s confidence.

“Sarah and I have been friends since elementary school, so we work well together and know each other well,” added Nielsen.

“There’s less pressure and responsibility on me because she helps me out so much,” said Blegen.

The captains’ role is to make sure that everyone focuses in practice during warm-up and laps and maintains concentration throughout games. One of the hardest tasks as captain includes helping the girls raise their spirits, and making sure everyone comes together as a team.

“If any players are down at any point, you have to pick them up and make sure they’re OK. Even if I’m down, [Nielson] helps me bring it up,” said Blegen.

“If they make a mistake, we have to tell them to just shake it off,” added Nielsen. “It builds confidence on the court, which is really important.”

Leave the coaching to the coaches—the most important part of the captains’ leadership is creating a sense of unity among the players.

“Captains can relay messages from coaches to the team in a more personal way,” said Nielsen. They are out on the court to encourage their teammates and help them step up.

Both Blegen and Nielsen played volleyball in their freshman year. Though Blegen was scared at first, she was less intimidated during her sophomore and junior years on varsity, after gaining more experience. Nielsen started out on varsity as a freshman and was “involved in many situations that have improved [her] mentally and physically” since then. Nielsen also mentioned that her club experiences helped make her a better leader.

Five seniors graduated last year, leaving Blegen and Nielsen some large shoes to fill. Both girls feel positive about taking on their new roles, despite the high expectations.

“I think it’s been really good for me because I’ve been able to reach a potential that I didn’t even know I had. I’ve definitely matured emotionally, and brought my level of game up, of course,” said Blegen.

Being team captain has never been too much pressure for the pair, though they express their leadership in different ways; aside from having the coaches and each other to lean on, the girls are relaxed and friendly. According to Blegen, the whole team contributes and manages to mesh together quite well. Nielsen and Blegen were elected in the beginning of the year and are popular with the rest of the team.

“They’re two of the most inspirational players I’ve ever seen,” said sophomore Ramya Swami, who is a front row hitter. “They have so much ability and so much to teach you”.

“[Blegen] is our starting outside hitter and the teams’ kill leader,” Coach Brad Frederickson said. “She is also an outstanding defensive player. Although Hanna was a great hitter for us last year, we have her setting through all the rotations to this point because she is outstanding at that position.”

Looking to the future, Blegen feels that the team “can definitely improve [their] skills by working hard at practice, but the league’s set how it is.” Since the season is well on its way to completion, the captains are hoping to lead the team to a solid finish.

Having played volleyball throughout her entire high school experience and spent three years at varsity level, Blegen has mixed feelings about letting go of the sport, since she won’t be playing in college.

“It’s scary because [volleyball] is something that’s been a part of my life for so long, but I’m also excited to move on,” Blegen said. She plans to play club volleyball in the future.

Both Blegen and Nielsen enjoy being looked up to as captains. “It’s rewarding to know our hard work has paid off,” said Nielsen.

“I feel glad that I’m responsible for something that I love so much,” Blegen added.