When the Brock Badgers women’s volleyball team stepped onto the court Friday night it was more than just the team’s home-opening match, it was also the home debut for new head coach Steve Delaney. Delaney was hired by Brock back in July and spoke only positively of his transition to life with the Badgers.
“It’s been great. The girls have been awesome. They’ve been really, really respectful and accepting of the culture change I’m trying to put in. It’s a good group of athletes, I believe in them and I’m just fighting hard to get them to believe in themselves,” said Delaney.
Brock’s first taste of their home court in the 2018-19 season couldn’t have come with a better result as this past weekend the Badgers defeated Royal Military College (RMC) Paladins in dominant fashion, 3-0 (25-14, 25-17, 25-17). After a 1-3 start to the season, it was imperative that the Badgers took care of business against the historically weak Paladins, and they did not disappoint. The Badgers’ size proved to be too much for their opponents as they were constantly on the attack, forcing RMC into difficult positions from start to finish.
Given the performance the Badgers provided on Friday night, you wouldn’t have suspected there were any home-opening jitters, but according to Delaney, there were. Although, because of the team’s road-heavy schedule to open the year, Delaney believed that it played a positive role in their preparation for this past weekend.
“Some of the girls are rookies, they’ve never played on a home court like that. When we went to Ryerson their fans were crazy so I think that helped prepare us for what we had to go through this weekend,” said Delaney.
“We were looking forward to it but I’ll be honest, as a coach, I didn’t know how they were going to respond because some teams play tighter when they’re front of all of their friends because they don’t want to screw up. So we were definitely looking forward to coming back but I was a little bit cautious because I didn’t know how they were going to react.”
After taking care of business on Friday, the Badgers were in for a Saturday night clash against the Queen’s Gaels on the second night of a back-to-back. The two teams entered play with identical 2-3 records and traded points back and forth for the majority of the night. In the end, it was Brock, that came out on top. In the early stages of the first set — that the Badgers managed to grind out 25-23 — Brock’s Emily Armstrong went down with what was an apparent left leg injury and was forced to leave the match. Delaney couldn’t provide any further details after the game other than that Armstrong was undergoing x-rays for what they suspected was an ankle injury. This is the second of Brock’s three captains to be hit with an injury as Tori Carroll is currently out with a concussion. Laura Condotta is the third captain, who Delaney said “has been our go-to person for the season to this point.” She proved this over the weekend, leading Brock in kills and digs in both matches.
Queen’s managed to fight back with a 25-18 win in the second set, but it was Brock that completed the comeback in the third set, 25-22, to take control with a 2-1 lead. The fourth set began with a quick start by Queen’s, but Brock looked unfazed, possessing a confidence that could be sensed throughout the match, bringing them back even with the Gaels on multiple occasions. The teams were all square at the 25 point mark with extra volleyball being required to decide the set. Eventually, the Badgers came through and defended home court in what was a dramatic 29-27 finish.
Understandably, Delaney was proud of his team’s effort and encouraged by how they were able to fight back and take the third and fourth sets.
“I don’t know if the team last year would’ve done that. Not that they weren’t capable of it, but I don’t think that they believed that they could. Today especially is a big moment because it’s kind of like turning the corner,” said Delaney.
“Any win we get is awesome, but more importantly it shows that ‘hey, you can be down and fight your way back’. Now they have no choice but to believe because they’ve already done it.”
It was a massively successful weekend for the team, as they defended their home court just about as well as they could’ve hoped for. After starting the season slowly at 1-3, the Badgers have made a quick turn back to winning volleyball. They now stand at 3-3 in third place in the OUA West Division.