By James Rose
Coming off an inconsistent season that fell short of expectations, the University of Calgary women’s volleyball team will approach the 2012–13 season with renewed dedication and high hopes for going deep into playoffs.
The team is currently in preseason — coaching staff and players have the opportunity to become comfortable with the systems, daily routines and, perhaps most importantly, each other.
As always, the start of every season has growing pains. The team dynamic is altered by the arrival of new faces and the departure of veterans, however, the U of C seems to have worked out its initial kinks. On September 21, the Dinos won silver in a preseason tournament hosted by the University of Regina Rams. Although their main Canada West competitors — the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds and the Trinity Western Spartans — weren’t in attendance, the second-place finish is a sign that things are clicking early for the team.
Last season, the Dinos were ranked as high as ninth in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport in October 2011, but ultimately lost to Trinity Western in the CW quarterfinals. The Dinos were not able to reach the CW final-four for the second-straight year — the 2009–10 playoff run ended in the quarterfinals at the hands of the University of Alberta Pandas. Over the past decade, the Dinos have not been used to their season ending early. From 2000–09, the Dinos appeared in nine-straight women’s CIS championships.
Head coach Natalie Schwartz said that preseason can be useful “to give all players playing opportunities and to build both personal and team confidence to be carried forward into the regular season.”
Schwartz added that she would like to see the team qualify for the 2013 national championships held at Quebec’s Université de Sherbrooke.
The conference that the Dinos play in is considered to be the most tightly contested conference in all of the CIS. Last year’s national final featured two CW teams, the U of A Pandas and the UBC Thunderbirds. Furthermore, the final top-10 CIS rankings included six teams from the CW conference.
After being an assistant coach for five years and the executive director for the Dinos volleyball club, last year’s season was Schwartz’s first as head coach of the team
“I learned how hard it is to win, how important it is to work hard and have a keen attention to detail,” said Schwartz.
Schwartz recognizes the importance of preparation, practice and work ethic that help contribute to a team’s continued success. Schwartz’s personal goals for the team include a desire to build and sustain “a championship culture of excellence.”
This summer, fifth-year libero Brooke Halvorsen achieved a remarkable feat by making team Canada’s B volleyball team. The national B team will compete at the 2013 International University Sports Federation games in Kazan, Russia.
“It was awesome because I had tried out the previous year and had extremely high expectations for myself and ended up being cut, so for this year I went in with a completely different mindset and just wanted to have fun, learn and improve,” said Halvorsen.
For Halvorson, going as far as possible into the playoffs and winning a national championship are her biggest team goals, while her personal goals include improving upon her last year’s game-time statistics.
First year Ali Woolley came from Toronto to play for the Dinos because of the higher level of competition in the CW conference.
“I had a great senior year of both high school and club volleyball,” said Woolley, who added that she is looking forward to what this season has in store.
The 2012–13 season is shaping up to be a very exciting one for the women’s volleyball team. The players and the coaching staff are motivated to make a statement this year.