An impressive run for the Brock women’s volleyball team has come to an end as their season concluded with a loss to Toronto in the OUA quarterfinals. The Badgers regular season ended with a record of 13-6, good for third in the OUA West division, which matched them up against the second place Toronto of the OUA East division. The Badgers were the underdog entering this match, with a program that is ranked eighth nationally standing in their path, as well as the fact that the team was almost entirely inexperienced when it came to playoff volleyball.
“[Toronto] started better than we did and they were ready. We started very poorly to say the least; it was hard because we actually talked about that, like, we can’t be starting tentative because it’s our first playoff appearance, we’ve got to make sure that we go after it and we didn’t do that,” said Brock head coach Steve Delaney.
As Delaney alluded to, the presence of playoff jitters were noticeable early, as the Badgers got off to a slow start in the first set and dropped it by a score of 25-12.
“I told them it’s okay, we’re still going to live. It’s fine and we were able to start building some momentum, which was great,” said Delaney.
That momentum led to the Badgers settling in a bit, exemplified by a plus-six point differential the rest of the way, but it wasn’t quite enough to get the result they were hoping for as the Varsity Blues took the match 3-1 (25-12, 25-23, 15-25, 26-24).
“We took the third set pretty easily and we were up 20-15 in the fourth set and I thought we had it, unfortunately that tentativeness came back again. We started playing to ‘not lose’ instead of to win and it ended up costing us,” said Delaney.
The Badgers may have made an early exit in the playoffs but they still achieved their goal of getting there. However, in the early aftermath of the loss, Delaney, as well as the team were obviously experiencing some feelings of frustration.
“I don’t think we played our best, there were moments where we showed what we could do but you’ve got to play three sets of solid volleyball to win a match and we just didn’t do that, whatever the reason may be, we just didn’t get consistent enough play to get the win,” said Delaney. “I think we could’ve won that fourth set, it would’ve been an awesome fifth set. But we didn’t do that and the outcome is what it is.”
When asked what was said after the conclusion of the match, Delaney admitted it was an emotional time for the team.
“I’ll be honest, it was super hard, it’s hard because your season is over but it’s even more hard because I think everybody in the room thought we were going to win,” said Delaney. “There was some adversity and it’s tough because when emotions are running high, you’ve got some girls who are done so the last thing you want to do is start talking about the mistakes you made, I just went into the room and said ‘this isn’t what we wanted, I think we deserved better, I think we all know we didn’t play our best game but we definitely played with our heart and we left it out on the floor. Let’s not let anything take away the season that we had’.”
The season they had was certainly worth taking pride in. The women’s volleyball team ended a four year playoff drought and have set themselves up for success in the near future due to the experience gained over the course of this season.
“I think we all did a lot of learning. I learned a lot, as a coach, I learned a ton in the past week, I view it as a success, I mean, you’re looking at a team that was tied for last place last year…so it’s definitely a success,” said Delaney
There seems to be a sense that a corner may have been turned within the program, with much of the team’s core returning next season and Delaney entering his second season at the helm of the women’s volleyball team.
“I think we’re really strong next year but it’s hard to say. The girls have to get in the gym and work hard over the summer and get strong, they have to keep their volleyball touches up, I as a coach have to, keep practicing my craft. There is good potential but there’s a lot of things that need to fall into place for us to say that we’re going to do better next year,” said Delaney.
Whether or not things fall into place next year remains to be seen. While this time around things may not have gone the Badgers’ way, Delaney leaves things off with a silver lining: “if you don’t leave something on the table, you’re not hungry for next year, right?”
On Monday, the OUA announced the women’s volleyball seasonal awards with Brock’s Laura Condotta winning OUA West Player of the Year and being named an OUA First Team All-Star. Teammate Darby Taylor was named Second Team All-Star and Jamie Holland was a part of the All Rookie Team.