The renaissance of women’s volleyball

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After finishing 1-17 last season, Chris Babic reports on the myriad of improvements thewomen’s volleyball team have made to quadruple their win total this year

This past Saturday, the Ryerson Rams women’s volleyball team were able to accomplish something that eluded them all of last season: they overcame the odds to win a game in five sets.

During the Rams’ disappointing 1-17 campaign last year, they could not find ways to close out tightly contested games.

They finished the season with 8 sets won and 55 sets lost, en route to being shut out in 13 of their 18 games.The team was hit with major injury problems, but more importantly they lacked the talent to complete.

In an effort to improve over the off-season, the team has taken several initiatives. Head Coach Dustin Reid added nine new faces to the squad, the Rams hired a team trainer to prevent injuries and Reid is pushing his players to take a more competitive approach during practices.

“The intensity and seriousness of our program has been upped,” said Emily Varga, a first-year libero. “We are rising to the occasion and the results are showing.”

The wins have definitely made the game more enjoyable for the entire team this season. The Rams have already won five more games than last year. With a 6-8 record, the team currently sits in a playoff spot.

“We expected the wins,” said Emily Nicholishen, the team’s star recruit. “We know that we are a better team this year, and we’re showing it.”

At the beginning of the season, it was clear that the rookies would need to settle in quickly and play up to their potential in order for the team to improve immediately. Nicholishen and fellow rookie, Chelsea Briscoe have delivered in spades, they’re first and second on the team in points scored respectively.

Along with the offensive firepower the rookies have brought to the team, Reid installed a defensive system that focuses on shutting down the opposing team’s best players.

The anchor of the Rams’ defense is the six-foot-two Kasandra Bracken, a fifth-year middle blocker with the height needed to come up to challenge the other team’s spikes. Bracken returns to the team after a one-year hiatus from the team, as she contemplated what she wanted to do after graduating.

As the most experienced player on the team, Bracken is the team’s natural leader on the youngest team in all of the Ontario University Athletics (OUA).

“When everyone’s got their nerves going, my role is to keep everyone level headed and stay calm,” said Bracken. “Even though I get really excited as well.”

The journey back to relevancy for the women’s volleyball team has been a gruelling one that began with the preparations made by the coaching staff made in the off-season.

Halfway through the new season, the results are showing. This team is no longer the OUA’s doormat.

“Our coach wanted to revamp the whole Ryerson volleyball program said Nicholishen. “And make Ryerson an elite team, we get it.”

 

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