By Christie Melhorn, December 6 2017 —
The Dinos women’s volleyball team’s 2017–18 season has been full of success. Standing at 14–3 in the Canada West league, the team is a force on the court, giving promise to their goal of claiming the national championship title.
In contrast to the common ‘new year, new you’ holiday mindset, head coach Natalie Gurnsey says the team’s current approach will hold in the winter semester.
“Our goals remain the same in the second semester. As a group, we want to be national champions,” Gurnsey said. “That involves training everyday like we’re champions and approaching every match like a championship. Not a lot changes except that we’re another step closer to attaining our goal.”
Third-year science student and libero Kennedy Snape credits the team’s effective communication and depth to their success. She says the team wants to maintain this in the new year.
“Our communication is phenomenal. We’re a bit of an older group and have played together for a couple of years. It’s helped us build strong bonds off the court and play better when we’re on it,” Snape said. “The depth on our bench is huge. A lot of teams have their core six but if someone is injured or sick, no one can come in and feed it, whereas everyone on our team can contribute.”
Snape says beating The University of Manitoba Bisons twice in their home-opening weekend was a season highlight.
“[Manitoba] is such a defensive team. We play off of huge blocks and kills so when a team gets everything up off the floor, it’s a lot harder for us to build momentum,” Snape said. “Pulling a sweep on them was huge for us.”
At the start of November, one of the team’s key starters, third-year engineering student and outside hitter Kate Pexman, suffered an ankle injury. Despite the unforunate loss, Gurnsey says the team found new strengths.
“When we lost [Pexman], I saw our team grow so much,” Gurnsey said. “It put people in different roles where they had to rise up. Players who are normally starters had to become comfortable around others. The group really weathered that storm.”
To prepare for the second semester, Gurnsey says the team will undergo intensive training that mimics championship games.
“In practice, we want to simulate the competitiveness and push other teams will challenge us with. Whether is drill work or six on six tactical work, it’s always about putting ourselves in a championship mindset,” Gurnsey said. “We do a mandatory two-week bootcamp with our strength coach — even during exams. We try and hit their physical system in a way we haven’t all semester.”
Despite the Dinos’ upcoming heavy training period, they will take a break from student-athlete responsibilities.
“The best part about Christmas break is spending time with our family and friends. You don’t realize how little you see people [outside of the team] until mid-season breaks. You remember, ‘Oh, there’s life outside of this,’ ” Snape said. “[The break] is great for our bodies too, especially for players who do a lot of jumping and swinging. Our knees and backs need those two to four weeks of less shock.”
From Dec. 27–Jan. 3, the team is playing in Vancouver. During their stay, they plan on having some light-hearted holiday fun.
“We do a Christmas dinner and gift exchange. It gets very competitive because you can steal from people. It’s lots of fun,” Snape said.
The team’s next home game is on Jan. 12 at 6 p.m. against the University of Brandon Bobcats in the Jack Simpson Gym. Admission is free for students.