MARSHALL - Chapter 6 of the 1986 business leadership book "Augustine's Laws" by businessman Norman Ralph Augustine is titled, "A Hungry Dog Hunts Best." While not a single member of the 2014 Southwest Minnesota State University volleyball team was alive for the release of Augustine's book, they've taken his message to heart.
On the first day of practice the @SMSUVolleyball Twitter account tweeted a picture of the entire team wearing T-shirts with that phrase printed in gold on the front.
This team knows that there are no guarantees in volleyball, especially in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. Even though the team is ranked No. 7 in the nation in the American Volleyball Coaches Association preseason poll, coach Terry Culhane knows this team will have to stay hungry to compete.
"(The phrase) is a good a reminder for us of what it's going to take to have a good season and survive playing in our league," said Culhane.
The team will have a lot of competition at the top with fellow Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference members Concordia-St. Paul and the University of Minnesota Duluth ranked No. 1 and No. 3, respectively.
The Mustangs finished 24-8 last season and earned a berth in the NCAA tournament. However, those accomplishments don't mean much on the court this season.
"We talk about the fight that is within us. It's always easy to do well when you're winning or on top of things, but a volleyball match can change so quickly and you have to have that attitude of being able to fight and not give up. That, to me, tests our character," said Culhane.
The team isn't afraid to bring that fight to the practice court either.
"This year we have a lot of positions to take," said junior setter Emilee Gutzmer.
The team lost a key player, libero Rachel Westby to graduation last season. They also have five freshmen on the squad. Culhane expects all of them to compete for a position.
"I would be shocked if some of our freshman don't push for playing time," he said.
Culhane isn't afraid to give younger players a shot.
"We like the idea that freshmen can come in and challenge for spots. We hope they come in with that idea. We hope the older kids aren't ready to give them a spot," he said.
Local-area freshmen Hannah Bennett, Megan Larson, and Kenzie Beekman will join Greta Geist and Brooke Borchardt as Mustangs playing college-level volleyball for the first time.
Even though there are no seniors on the team this year, the experienced players know they play a key role in creating the team atmosphere.
Gutzmer listed what the team leaders are expected to do: "Help the younger freshmen, keep a high intensity in practice, give those high expectations that our coach has given us and create a good atmosphere."
The team also rallied around the hungry dog phrase, which was coined by assistant coach Paul Soupir. It has also been accompanied by the hashtag #Pabloism on the social media network Twitter.
Many team members worked on creating that good atmosphere over the summer with a team retreat, as well as being active on social media. Junior Abbey Thissen knows that her role as a leader extends both on and off the court, especially with the freshmen: "We just make sure the transition goes smoothly and that (the freshmen) have people to lean on."
The public will get its first chance to see the team in action during the annual "Late Show" scrimmage at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the PE Gym at SMSU. The team will open its season against Wheeling Jesuit University (W.Va.) at the Concordia-St.Paul Classic tournament on Sept. 5. The Mustangs' home opener is Sept. 16 against Sioux Falls.