Top Tandem Series: Stephen F. Austin Beach Volleyball’s Madison Hall and Katie Hansen

NEW ORLEANS – Ahead of the 2024 Sun Belt Conference Beach Volleyball Championship in Huntsville, Ala., April 25-27, the league’s “Top Tandem” series will share interviews highlighting student-athletes representing the duos holding the No. 1 rankings of the line-up of each program. during the season.

The next edition of “Top Tandem’” features Stephen F. Austin junior Madison Hall (Midlothian, Texas) and freshman Katie Hansen (Austin, Texas).

What is your mentality before a match, knowing that you are likely to be competing against an opponent’s best duo every time you play?

Hall: It is an honor to play against the best players on any team. It’s both a mental and physical challenge, but I enjoy the strategic aspect required to overcome it. My mindset going into these competitions is to push myself and encourage my partner as best I can.

Hansen: I learned at an early age that volleyball is just as much a mental sport as it is a physical sport. Of course you have to be able to play, but the mental game makes or breaks matches. A year ago I wouldn’t have thought I would be playing in Flight One my freshman year. But here I am, with an amazing partner. We have already proven that we can win. My mentality? To trust. Confidence in my ability to perform. Trust in my partner. The confidence that we will do our best and win. That doesn’t always happen, but we walk around expecting to win. When we do that, we know we’ve earned it.

Do you feel responsible for your team playing on court No. 1?

Hall: Personally, I feel a huge responsibility when I play at number 1 because it is the most sought after position in the team. I feel like every match I have to prove to myself and my team that I have worked hard to be in this place and that I will continue to fight for a win on my pitch to contribute to the team’s victory .

Hansen: Yes. We set the tone of the match, despite playing in the second wave most of the time. Court No. 1 is always the center of attention. When we win, we know we have contributed. When we lose, it hurts. We are the face of the team, even though there are eight other women playing. But at the end of the day we are a team. A win in the two, three, four or five places is just as important as ours.

In what areas do you think you have developed chemistry as a duo? How long does it take for you to realize that you are learning more about your teammate and improving together?

Hall: I think we grew a lot as a duo during the season. Since Katie is a freshman, everything about the college game is new to her and she has done a fantastic job adapting to the changes that come with the No. 1 pair. At the beginning of the season we had trouble with communication and who would get which ball in defense. Both areas have improved enormously over the course of the season. I would say it took our first two games to really understand each other, but we continue to grow every game. I like to think of ourselves as a power couple because we capitalize on each other’s strengths and help hide each other’s weaknesses.

Hansen: Every day is a new day and neither me nor my partner play the same every day. Some days a pass, a goal or a set might not work out quite right for one of us. It is the other person’s responsibility to see and hide that. This is not the time to get angry or frustrated. It is the time to work together and be a team.

Our first time playing together was at Tulane and our journey to develop together as a couple began. We did pretty well that day, which helped, but throughout the season we learned a lot about each other as individuals and as partners. We work well together and compensate for each other’s shortcomings and bad days. Through hard practice, extra reps and a good bond as a couple, we have grown significantly since the start of the season.

Playing under a first-year head coach, what has helped you emerge as a leader of the team, and what influence do you have on your teammates?

Hall: Having a first-year coach has been an adjustment for all of us. I do my best to challenge my teammates during training and expect the same from them in return. Creating a new team culture with a new coach takes a lot of work, but it is such a fun process to be a part of. As the leader of the team, I hold my teammates accountable and encourage them to be the best versions of themselves.

Hansen: Our coach may not have the same level of experience as many other coaches across the country, but what she does have is the ability to motivate us to reach our potential. Being a freshman on Flight No. 1 has been an amazing and blessed opportunity that Coach Wilkerson has given me. She continues to push Madison and me to be better and challenges us with new strategies and ways to play. Personally, I have had to grow up quickly in this position. I would be lying if I said it was easy, but Coach Wilkerson has helped create a new culture on the team and I am humbled by the trust she has placed in both of us.

In what ways do you think you experienced growth on the field between last season and this season?

Hall: There have been so many changes to the program between last season and this season. I think I have been able to adapt better to this change and take advantage of this opportunity to become a leader both on and off the field. As for my game, I’m moving better in the sand and have gained more confidence in my swing. I also have a lot of confidence in my partner, Katie. She’s just an animal!

Hansen: Between last season and this season there is a big difference in who I am as a player on the field. Some things do not change. I still play with heart and soul. I will never give up. There’s no such thing as a ball you can’t chase, except the ball you don’t try to chase. Where I have seen the most growth this season is in my humility and emotional strength. We didn’t lose much while playing with Madison and with the juniors. Winning feels good, but it also creates a lot of arrogance. This season we have both won and lost. I don’t like losing, but it forces me to swallow my pride a little, mature a little and be a good teammate. I look at every match as an opportunity and a blessing.