Setting the Tone

Augustana's Anna Sykora competes in a volleyball match in 2016.

Three years after transferring to AU, senior setter Anna Sykora helped the Vikings reach new heights this season.

Today, the Augustana volleyball program is recognized as one of the best in the nation.

The season’s first NCAA Division II Central Region rankings had the Vikings at No. 6. They recorded the program’s first 20-win season since 2013 and at one point had defeated four of the American Volleyball Coaches Association’s top five teams. The Vikings were ranked seventh nationally as the regular season entered its final week.

This fall, Augustana solidified its position as a national championship contender with a 3-1 win against Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) foe Minnesota Duluth. The Bulldogs hadn’t lost a match when they took the floor in the Elmen Center and were ranked No. 1 in the country. The Vikings prevailed behind junior middle blocker Baily Koch’s 16 kills, seven blocks and four assists, and senior setter Anna Sykora’s career-high 57 assists. It was Augustana’s first win over a No. 1 AVCA team since 2002.

“We had really high expectations at the beginning of the season,” said Sykora. “We had the players, good chemistry, and we’ve been very steady throughout the season.”

Sykora has found Augustana to be a good fi t. A standout at Rapid City Stevens High School, she played one season at Division I Montana State before transferring. She started all 31 matches for the Bobcats and finished with the fourth best assists total in the Big Sky Conference.

“I knew it wasn’t right for me,” she said. “I love volleyball, but I was kind of falling out of love there. Volleyball at the college level is like a full-time job, but it was becoming a monotonous job.”

Sykora, who was recruited by Augustana as a freshman and sophomore at Stevens, began the 2014 season as a Viking. The transition was not without challenges, but she concentrated on improving as a setter and at the same time learning about leadership. Last season she earned more court time while continuing to learn.

Augustana closed out the 2016 regular season with wins at Northern State University and MSU Moorhead. Sykora was named NSIC setter of the week after posting 108 assists for the two matches. Sykora has played for three coaches in her four years of collegiate competition.

She has no regrets about the move to Augustana, where she said her love for volleyball was rekindled.