Wesmen volleyball team adds golden prospects

Canada Games gold medalists adapting to U SPORTS competition

The Wesmen women’s volleyball team might have more potential than their mid-season 1-5 record indicates.

The Wesmen 2017-18 roster is relatively young for the U SPORTS league and includes four rookie athletes who earned gold medals with Team Manitoba at the Canada Games held in Manitoba this summer.

Emma Parker, Taylor Boughton, Ashleigh Laube and Jessica Andjelic are the first-year Wesmen who struck Canada Games gold this year. Parker calls her gold medal achievement “the experience of a lifetime.”

Parker, named Wesmen Player of the Week on Oct. 2, is currently rehabilitating a sprained ankle but is expected to return before the team’s Nov. 28 contest against Brandon University.

The freshmen players say they’re learning from the third- and fourth-year athletes in the league.

“We’re trying to learn how to get to their level. We’re trying to get as much experience as we can,” Parker says.

Parker points to the increased difficulty of playing more experienced post-secondary opponents compared to her Canada Games competition.

“At the Canada Games, we were winning most of the games we were playing. We only had one loss the whole time there,” Parker says.

The Wesmen face obstacles as a young team. Although the gold medal quartet have proven their Canada Games competency, the step up in competition has not gone unnoticed by the new team members.

“They’re super tall, so their blocks are super high,” Parker says of U SPORTS women's volleyball athletes.

Another challenge facing the young team is that they have had less time to develop a playbook that works to their individual and team strengths than veteran teams with more third- and fourth-year athletes.

“Volleyball is a very specific sport,” Scott says. “You need all six (players on the court) to be working together. You need the right system for your group of athletes.”

The Wesmen are working on being able to make better mid-game adjustments.

“I think we know how to win, and we know what to do. We’re just trying to adjust to losing and pushing more to win and be successful,” Parker says.

Despite a slow start to the season, Scott has faith in her roster.

“They’re very much a high expectation group,” she says.

Whether this year’s team will be playoff contenders is uncertain. What’s more clear is the team’s positive longer-term forecast, according to Parker and Scott.

“Last year, I knew the team here didn’t do that well, so coming into it, I knew it was going to be a struggle,” Parker says. “I know in the next years to come ahead we will definitely be more successful and get better.”

Scott points out that the skill gap between teams is not prohibitive to Wesmen success this year.

“The league has so much parity that from weekend to weekend, different teams are dominating then losing,” Scott says. “We have the right kids in the room, and we’ll continue to add to that. It’s just a matter of time. We’re putting the pieces together.”

Published in Volume 72, Number 10 of The Uniter (November 16, 2017)

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