ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) – We’re a family. That’s the bond that coaches across the country want their teams to reach. For the UCF volleyball team, the familial bond is literal heading into 2018. The Knights will field a squad with two setters by the last name of Olson.
After two years apart, Erin and Amber Olson will suit up for the Black and Gold for the 2018 season. The duo out of Cary, Ill., spent the last two weeks battling, teaching and learning from each other as they went through preseason practice.
The setting sisters have been fueled by one thing – competition.
“This is the first time we’ve played on the same team together,” Erin added. “In practice, it’s a lot of fun. I know she’s across the net from me all the time, so it’s good healthy competition. We’ve always had that, whether it was going for reps or playing SORRY. SORRY gets heated real fast. Being on the same team to run the same offense is something we’re really looking forward to.”
Another benefit to playing with each other at UCF is that both setters will see a significant amount of playing time this season in the Knights’ 6-2 offense, which features dual setters. Erin played in all 34 matches during her initial campaign at UCF, finishing with a team-high 734 assists for 5.73 dimes per set. With the added competition and comradery between the sisters, head coach Todd Dagenais expects the two will raise their level of play.
“A lot of times, when you get in a program, competition for playing time can become very contentious,” Dagenais said. “That contentiousness originates from two people who don’t know each other very well. Erin and Amber compete at everything. I think all they know is competition amongst each other. They handle practice with the utmost professionalism.”
Erin and Amber were not initially on parallel paths. Erin signed and played her freshman season at Bradley, while Amber made a commitment to play at UCF. After her freshman year, Erin wanted a change of scenery and found her new home in Orlando.
“I actually asked her first if I could go to the school that she was committed to,” Erin said. “Her response was like ‘well, if they don’t get you, they’re going to get someone else. At least I know I can beat you out.’ Exact words from her when I was thinking of transferring.”
While most freshmen set foot on campus for the first time with no prior knowledge of a team’s playbook, Amber came in with a leg up after watching the majority of the Knights’ matches on UCFKnights.TV last season.
“With Erin playing here last year, it made me watch more matches and understand more of what type of offense they were running,” Amber said. “I feel like I was more invested in the team by having a sibling already on the team.”
UCF also had the benefit of playing seven matches in Puerto Rico in June, which gave the freshman more than 20 practices to acclimate to Dagenais’ scheme prior to preseason camp. Through the first two weeks of regular season practice, Erin and Amber continue to bounce ideas and critiques off each other.
“Erin is doing a wonderful job of mentoring and supporting Amber,” Dagenais added. “In turn, Amber is doing a great job of soaking it all up and competing for playing time. There’s not very many position battles that you see that sort of support, especially in the setting position.”
The inevitable trials of a regular season can wear down the best of teams. The success of a team is based on the ability of its players to overcome any obstacles. Being able to rely on their sister is one thing that will keep the Olsons moving forward during the 2018 campaign.
“I trust her completely,” Amber added. “We have a very similar approach to the game. The fact is that we both want to win so bad. We compete at the highest level no matter what. I feel like that is something that is going to help our team be successful this season, regardless if we are winning or if we’re behind in a match.”
The setting sisters open up the 2018 season on Friday at the Sunshine State Classic at Miami.
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