On the heels of an amazing season, being crowned national champions, the women’s volleyball team is back on the court at VIU and looking for the same success.
Two themes stood out when I sat down with head coach Shane Hyde to discuss the upcoming season: the importance of taking the year one game at a time, and although the goal is to return to Nationals, to have a little fun along the way.
Meagan: How did the off-season go for the team?
Coach Hyde: It was a great off-season. It gave everyone some time to unwind from such a crazy year. Recruiting was very good, we picked up a number of really strong athletes to “reload” if you want to call it that…It was tough to come back actually [laughs].
M: Any fresh faces you think will have an impact on the team?
CH: We have Ashley Van Ackon and Ashley Cousens, both of those players transferred over from Capilano University; Ashley Cousens was their captain and all-star setter. Megan Rosenlund, she is the sister of our captain last year and provincial team player, so we’re happy to have her. Another that is fitting in really well is Megan Groenendik.
We have some other ones but those are really the standouts for us. We had a lot of really good recruits last year, and with the squad we had we really didn’t have the room to bring them in. And now they’re ready to take those spots over, and a couple [players] have really stepped up and seized those spots.
M: What are your goals and expectations this season?
CH: Our goal is always to win Nationals…when we won it in 2008, the next year when we came back and we were so focused only on winning Nationals. I was a cranky coach, and nothing was good enough [laughs]…This year after winning Nationals we’re taking a whole different approach. We have 24 matches for our league where we can gradually improve, like we did last year. We got Leanna Gildersleeve, who was MVP at Provincials and Nationals, she’s back and has sparked a fire on our court. We also have Dani Smith, who was our setter, and was selected to the National team this summer.
M: What does that element bring to the team?
CH: That’s huge, because we’ve never had a player from here go directly to the national team… So it’s really awesome to have Dani in the National team program now, a whole summer training with them has allowed her to come back twice the player she was last year—and she was our all-Canadian last year.
M: Do you expect her to take on more of a leadership role this year?
CH: For sure, both she and Leanne are our captains…Just playing a National final, and going through all the provincials, and all the nationals, and being successful at both really creates that confidence that you can’t practice on the court. In those terms, I think we’re really solid.
The other thing last year is we really preached about being patient, because our season is so long. Last year was our first season with this new system with 24 matches, this is our second season with it now and we’re sending the same message, to be patient; we need an entire team of athletes, rather than just our starting six. And that’s why we were so effective last year, having multiple players that were ready to roll if we needed them.
M: Do you change up any practice routines going into this season?
CH: Because we do have such a large amount of players returning from last year’s team, we’ve bypassed a lot of the technical [aspects] and we’re doing a lot more game plans and strategy more than what we would do at this time, in seasons past. Another approach that we have this year is the whole idea of patience…really this season doesn’t start for us until after Christmas, until we’re ramping it up a little bit.
And that’s what we did last year, we had an early loss— which, we’re not used to losses [laughs]—and normally we would be in panic mode, but we just sailed through it, and realized it’s a long season and a lot of matches.
M: Who do you see as your toughest opponents this season?
CH: Frasier Valley is very strong, they got the bronze medal at Nationals last year, and they did not lose a player— in fact they picked up big players, so they will be very, very strong. Columbia Bible College will be strong again this year, Camosun has improved, and Douglas College has improved. From what I’m hearing every team has improved across the league. Winning Nationals puts a major target on your back, so we will see everybody’s best game all season long.
M: Does the team stay focused on the 12 away games during the season?
CH: We’re usually better on the road…we can keep [the team] contained and focused on what we need to do. However, we do have the best fans in the country, and [during Nationals] you saw the damage our crowd can do on an opponent. We do play well on the road, but we like to be home in front of our crowd.