By Joseph Casciaro
The Rams women’s volleyball team will make its return to the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC) for their first regular season home game since 2020, taking on the York University Lions on Nov. 13.
The Rams have a new-looking roster this year. There are two sets of recruiting classes and 10 rookies, due to there being no season last year. All first and second-year players are getting their first taste of university volleyball with the Rams.
“We’ve got a lot of new faces, so it’s exciting to finally start to form relationships with everyone since we had such a long time off,” said fourth-year libero Olivia Yang. “I’m really excited to develop those relationships and hopefully have them transfer onto the court.”
Third-year setter Lauren Wong also had high praise for all the new members of the team.
“They’re so energetic, they bring so many new faces to the team,” said Wong. “I’ve always called them puppies since coming in and they make us excited and motivated.”
Wong added that the new rookies have a high competitive nature, which leads to intensity in the team’s practices and games.
“It’s so exciting to finally start to form relationships with everyone”
With such a young team, the few experienced players on the roster will need to step into leadership roles. Head coach Dustin Reid praised the most experienced and longest tenured player on the team, fifth-year right side Cailin Wark.
Wark has become a key to success for the team and has put together an impressive resume. In the 2019-20 season she became the all-time program leader in aces, won H.H. Kerr Female Athlete of the Year, was OUA East MVP, an OUA First-Team All-Star and was named a U Sports First-Team All-Canadian.
As one of the veterans of the team, Yang said she hopes be a mentor to the younger players on the team.
“Providing mentorship and a big sister-type role [is important]—if you need help I’m there because I’ve been here for a while,” said Yang.
The long layoff, combined with an abundance of new faces on the roster means challenges will arise throughout the season. But Yang pointed out that every university is in the same boat and nobody will know how to prepare for matchups against one another, due to the high roster turnover rate since the pandemic began.
Yang also said it will be hard to create game plans while not knowing other teams’ players and their new systems.
“That’s probably one of the biggest challenges…having all these schools starting on a fresh slate and having to adjust to that on the fly,” said Yang.
With the lack of intel on opposing teams, Wong and Reid both said their biggest key to success will be their defensive play.
“Our strengths are going to be on the defensive side of the ball, so our ability to serve well and defend well will give us a lot of opportunities to win rallies,” said Reid.
“Our ability to serve well and defend well will give us lots of opportunities to win rallies”
Wong added that they aren’t the biggest team when it comes to size, so their defence will be a key role in getting them points.
Reid also added that this year, the preseason was much more important than in the past because it was used to learn about the roster and determine the roles of each player. The team was able to learn where they needed to improve and how they could polish their game before the start of the regular season.
Yang said the group’s energy will also be crucial this season. She added sometimes the team has struggled to dig themselves out of holes and that responding to adversity with high energy will be very important.
Another layer for the Rams this upcoming season is that they only have one home game during the first half of the season. The team faces a road-heavy schedule with five of their six games before 2022 being away from the MAC. It’s an obstacle the rookie-heavy team will have to adapt to out of the gate.
“It is kind of disheartening, but I know how special that one game will be,” said Wong. “It is very sad that we only have one [home] game, but I think we’re going to make the most of it.”
The Rams women’s volleyball team is currently 0-2. They’ll be looking to secure their first win of the season on Nov. 13 at the MAC.