Returning players refine the formula

“We are confident because of our experience, but we also know we’re not going to be handed a provincial title,” says Claire Ferguson, a fourth year middle blocker and team captain of a Blues volleyball team that finished with a team record 29 wins and 6 losses last season. Add that to the fact that the team is composed mostly of returning players this year and you may have an equation for hubris; however, when the girls think back to last season, their memories are far from content.

An anti-climatic fourth place finish in provincials is to blame, yet it may also take the credit if the team can use the motivation and experience to power them to a provincial championship.

These championship aspirations are expected mainly because of player experience and because of the hard training they put in during the summer and at the beginning of the season, motivated by a desire to avenge their fourth place finish. Because of this, Head Coach Wayne Desjardins believes they have “the ability and potential to contend for provincial and national championships”.

As captain, Ferguson holds much responsibility for the leadership role, but she is quick to point out that every player on the team is so positive that overt leadership is not necessary. “I hope to lead by example,” she says.

Two players helping out with Claire’s captaincy are Kristie Lum and Rachel Unger they receive high praise from their captain. Ferguson calls Lum, a fellow Argyle Secondary grad, “our defensive captain” and refers to Unger as “the best blocker in the league,” a claim substantiated by a league-leading 1.23 blocks a game. Along with setter Kristen Lindahl and outside hitter Michelle Torresan, they form the veteran battalion of the squad and take care of both the leadership and experience quotient of Desjardins formula.

One aspect that is always a concern with a talented team is whether or not they can maintain their consistency throughout the season. Last year may have been an example of being too good to soon, and Ferguson affirms that “we may have peaked too early last year.” Despite winning their own October tournament easily (dropping only two sets), they struggled in two exhibition losses to Vancouver Island University the next weekend. Yet, just as the bitterness of their fourth place finish may one day transform into a victory glow, these losses can be seen as a chance to make early adjustments and work out the kinks. 

A 2-0 start to league play seems to have confirmed this hypothesis, yet their opponent was the lowly College of the Rocky Mountains and expectations for winning were high. As the season continues and the difficulty of their schedule increases, the test will be to maintain their high level of play against better competition – the key to this being the word maintain because, as the returning players last year can attest, a stellar regular season is worth nothing when playoffs roll around.

//Mac Fairbairn
Sports Writer

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