A pair of volleysaurs say adios

In recent times, the Dinos women’s volleyball team has been one of the most successful varsity teams by any standard. As the season came to a close with the Canadian Interuniversity Sport Championship taking place here at the University of Calgary in early March, the team lost two players who have been around to experience many of the team’s richer years. Natalie Schwartz and Neda Boroumand both played their last games as Dinos, winning the bronze-medal match against the Universite de Montreal Carabins.

Schwartz was with the team for a full five years, and has therefore been to five CIS championships–winning silver in 2002, fourth in 2003, gold in 2004 and bronze in 2005 and 2006–won two Canada West championships–in 2002 and 2005–and experienced an undefeated regular season in 2004-05. Boroumand joined the team from Mount Royal College for the 2003-04 season. Both players will be sorely missed by their teammates and coaches alike.

“You can’t replace people like that,” Boyles lamented. “You can replace the positions, but you can’t replace the people. I’ll miss the people more than the players.”

“I’ve made some of the best relationships of my life here,” Schwartz agreed. “Kevin Boyles has been like a father to me and will continue to be a close friend. I’ve made some of the best friends I’ll ever have in these girls.”

Schwartz displayed her skills from day one with the Dinos. She was named to the CW and CIS All-Rookie teams and was named U of C Female Rookie Athlete of the Year in 2002. Since then she has been named to CIS All-Canadian teams on multiple occasions and led the Dinos to uncountable victories.

“Nat has driven the team for five years,” Boyles commented. “She’s provided attitude and aggression and character.”

Schwartz has posted the highest number of assists in Canada West for three years straight and this year had the most assists per game in conference play. But she wasn’t all business; Schwartz’s favourite memories of being a Dino weren’t the wins, but the fun–the themed practices, the crazy antics of the team and simply enjoying herself.

“It’s been such a big part of who I am and who I’m going to become,” Schwartz explained. “It’s equipped me for the future.”

But “the sky’s the limit” for the future according to Schwartz. The communications studies major could end up back in school or playing pro overseas next year. One thing she can see in the near future is getting involved in coaching. Whatever the case, she’s left her mark here at the U of C.

“She’s leaving as one of the best people I’ve ever been associated with,” said Boyles. “My wife and I often tell her she’s the kind of person we want our kids to grow up to be like.”

Boroumand played two years with the RDC Queens before focusing on school for a year, then joining the Dinos. With the Queens she was named RDC and Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year in 2001 and was a conference all-star both her years there. Since joining the Dinos, Boroumand has played a key role in securing some big wins.

“When Neda came, she stabilized the team.” Boyles explained. “We felt we had lost national titles in previous years because the backcourt was inconsistent. What’s indicative of this is the year we won nationals was when she joined the team.”

“I entered the program knowing it would be successful,” Boroumand said. “I knew that if the team was successful it would help me and if I was successful it would help the team. I was wanting to win and associated the Dinos with winning.”

Despite spending just three years with the Dinos rather than five like many other players, Boroumand has still managed to squeeze everything she could out of it. She led CW in digs per game for the last three seasons and has grown off the volleyball court as well.

“You just have to take what you can get,” she said of her three-year reign. “Some things you learn in a short while can mean a lot. I’ve had enough time for me to get everything I could out of the program.”

“In three years here, she’s moved beyond being just a volleyball player,” agreed Boyles. “She’s realized there’s a lot more out there.”

Boroumand graduates next year with a science degree in geophysics. She hopes to get some field experience this summer. She will take a break from playing volleyball to get her degree finished but will resume playing if she can’t let go.

And as the team is forced to let go of both ladies, they will have to look for some solid new players if they hope to repeat this year’s successes. The Dinos host the CIS Championship again next season and therefore have a secure spot in the tournament.

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