Before work, play

MARSHALL – The start of a new year of college is typically a time to meet new people and get settled in on campus. On Saturday, students at Southwest Minnesota State University were doing just that, but were also taking some time to do bellyflops in an ankle-deep puddle of mud.

“It’s hard to move,” SMSU student Alexis Walker said of playing volleyball in the slushy mud courts dug into turf near the university’s wildlife area. It was easy to slip or overbalance, and it wasn’t much easier to actually connect with the ball.

“Every time the ball comes flying at you, mud comes flying off of it,” said Blake Wooten, one of Walker’s teammates in the mud volleyball tournament. He had to pass the ball with his head turned away, or else get an eyeful of mud, he said.

“You try not to get it in your mouth,” said student Kate Nohner.

The mud volleyball tournament was part of Gold Rush Days, SMSU’s orientation and welcome celebration for first-year students. About 40 teams tried to serve, set and spike their way to a prize of Applebee’s gift cards. Organizers said while the tournament, like other Gold Rush Days events, was held for freshmen, it was open to all students.

Members of the Marshall Fire Department were on hand with a truck to help keep the volleyball courts soaked, and to give fire hose “showers” to students wanting to clean up.

The tournament drew a good number of returning students, and not just freshmen. Colton Citrowske of Marshall said he was back after taking part in last year’s mud volleyball event.

“It’s the big event for Gold Rush Days,” he said.

Brianna Staton, an SMSU student from Benson, said she and her teammates joined the volleyball tournament “to meet people.”

“We played sand volleyball yesterday,” Staton said.

“Now we’re taking it to the next level,” added Emily Ellefson, one of Staton’s teammates.