Even though the season ended sooner than they had hoped, the Brock women’s volleyball team still made major improvements this year. After finishing the year with a 6-13 record in regular season play, the Badgers found themselves on the outside of the playoff picture.
“[It’s] disappointing we did not achieve that, however what we did do is improve on quite a few things overall which is what we will build on moving forward. I look at this as year three of a cycle and so, this was a year that we beat top 10 teams and bumped them out of the rankings,” said coach Dale Melnick.
When looking at previous seasons it becomes clear that the Badgers are heading in the right direction. Over the past three seasons, the team has compiled records of 2-21, 9-20 and most recently 14-17.
“Seeing that is great motivation for us. With the bulk of the team next year in year three and four, we are moving the right direction with our development,” said Melnick.
Despite the improvements that the team has made, they still struggled with consistency throughout the year. A couple of lengthy losing streaks, including a four-game streak to end the season, ultimately proved to be the reason why the Badgers were on the outside looking in at the conclusion of the regular season.
“No question that was tough. The athletes were ready and well prepared leading into each match however, the pressure to compete just got the best of them,” said Melnick. “There are no easy matches ever in the OUA West so you have to expect a battle. Unfortunately, those that we expected to battle; didn’t and those that did really placed themselves in a tremendous position to support and carry this team forward. Losing to Waterloo at home was a combination of them playing well enough and us playing neutral. Senior night and a must win situation is a lot of pressure, no question.”
The Badgers were faced with some adversity throughout the year, as Grace Pyatt and Darby Taylor both went down with season-ending injuries in early January. Despite the challenges that the team faced, there are many things that can be taken from this season and used moving forward.
“Beating Windsor in five sets at home and all hitters in double digits. That had not happened for Brock in years. It was also the first time we registered 65 kills in a match. We saw five or more times this year the team registering 50 kills or more. I remember last year and the year before barely getting 20,” said Melnick. “Grace Edwards (second year) Laura Condotta (third year) and Julia Balabat (second year) were tremendous leaders this year and carried a lot of pressure when it came to serve receive. They kept us in long rallies with their defense and chasing down balls. Hannah Davenhill and Emily Armstrong did a tremendous job as young setters running our offense.”
With the 2017-18 season now in the past, the Badgers now look to turn their attention to the upcoming season. As with every year, the team must learn to move forward despite losing some senior players. Melnick is expecting a few players to step up and take the leadership roles that are now left open with the departure of
“Darby Taylor, Grace Pyatt, Jenn Todd, Laura Condotta, Julia Balabat, Grace Edwards and even our young rookie Kendra Adams. We are going to be even more athletic this year. At the end of long matches, we were still ready to play. There is no question our strength and conditioning coach did a great job. I’m looking forward to seeing the year end testing and start planning for next year. Edwards absolutely was most improved both on and off the court. For a second-year athlete, she played very calm, very composed. She’s also a tremendous leader and used her voice often to guide and mentor others.”
The emergence of new leaders from within the team will be important, as new recruits will be looking for guidance when learning the OUA game. While Melnick believed that this last year was the best recruiting year, she also said that the 2018 class is another group of very strong athletes who are poised to make an impact on the team right away. The class includes local athlete Christina Joevetic, who has been working out at the Brock Sports Performance Centre, Mikayla Law-Heese who will be representing Canada at the U19 Beach Volleyball World Championships this summer, and Sara Rohr, who was a setter for Team Ontario this season.
There is a lot to be excited about with this team, and Melnick believes that the Badgers will continue to improve on the progress they have made over the last few seasons.
“They are ready and prepared to move forward as well change the culture of Brock volleyball and become a high-performance team. No question the key is having everyone on the team buy in and work hard to get where they want to go.”