Making the playoffs last season for the first time in four seasons was a major stepping-stone for Brock’s women’s volleyball team. After finishing the season 8-11, third place in the west division, the women’s head coach Dale Ann Melnick saw huge improvements over the course of four years.
“Probably one of the strongest teams to date that we had,” said Melnick. “Lots of veterans on the team which was great.” The team saw four graduating students after last season, and for everyone on the team it was the first time they experienced the playoffs.
“Our expectation is to medal, there’s nothing left,” said Melnick. “We are young, however, and I emphasize however, we have recruited two provincial team athletes and one national team athlete.”
Joining the team and hopefully making a strong impact right away are Laura Condotta, Alana Norris and Annika Naylor. Melnick mentioned that they will also have a new addition joining them in January, as New Zealand’s national setter will be coming to Brock.
“Condotta is an unbelievable dynamic athlete,” said Melnick. “One of the top beach players in the country right now. However, she could have played for our indoor team as well, that’s how talented she is.” Condotta will be the team on court captain this year, and is only in her first year.
“Norris, an outside hitter (as is Condotta) played indoor volleyball for the [Ontario] provincial team. Norris is a 5’7 jam packed dynamo gamer. She has no concept of a 6’3 blocker on the other side.”
Along with the 17-year old setter coming from New Zealand, Naylor is another rookie setter that will need to step in right away. Naylor, from Calgary, led her club team to a National championship. The team also has fourth year player Karlinna O’Leary, who is the team’s libero (the person who wears a different coloured jersey).
“(O’Leary) is like a dog on the bone. Her and Norris on the court are like the same person,” said Melnick. “Same height, same characteristics and they are willing to sacrifice their body to dig a ball.”
In preseason play the Badgers dropped all four games, winning only three sets out of 15. They picked up one set win against Laval, whom Melnick thinks should be ranked in the top 10 in CIS volleyball. “After playing Laval we noticed we can do this,” said Melnick. “As young as we are, we are talented and can do it. We’ve decided to start competing nationally.”
This season Melnick approached pre-season differently than what she had done in the past. Realizing that championships are not won in October, Melnick used pre-season to try and bond the team together.
She was hoping to build coach to player, coach to coach, and player to player relationships.
“It was about what are we like when we are on a bus together or train or plane,” said Melnick. “In volleyball you need everybody. If the trust isn’t there it doesn’t work.”
The team will now open up the regular season as they head off to play Ryerson and Windsor. The Badgers already lost to Ryerson in pre-season, but Melnick sees the team putting up a better game. “In pre-season we were up six-nothing in the sets, so we went out strong and just stopped. If we win [versus Ryerson] it’ll set the tone for us.”
Brock will play at Ryerson on October 23 at 7:00 p.m. and again at Windsor on October 25 at 1:00 p.m. They’ll have their home opener the following week when they welcome McMaster on October 31, game beginning at 2:00 p.m.