In team sports, it is very rare for a coach to openly acknowledge they have built a team around a particular player. By doing so, there is the danger of marginalizing other players or putting too much pressure on that one player. Despite that, Dinos women's volleyball Head Coach Kevin Boyles has often referred to Amanda Moppett as the cornerstone of the program over the course of this, her fifth and final season.
"What made Mopps so special were all the things she did off the court," Boyles said of his co-captain. "She just found so many ways to contribute, so many ways to make us better."
However, Moppett isn't the only key piece of the Dinos puzzle saying farewell this season. After an unbelievable comeback from offseason shin surgery, Jill Friend leaves the Dinos after four spectacular years in the program.
"Jill has always had a love-hate relationship with our program and our team," smiled Boyles when asked about his time as Friend's coach. "She has such a dominant personality that it challenges us, and I believe it has helped elevate us and make us as good as we've been.
"Jill has always been intensely competitive, incredibly passionate. The team will miss her."
Friend's comeback and Moppett's storied career ended in the best possible way--on top. Both women walked off the court for the final time as national champions after playing key roles at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport national championships in Saskatoon the first weekend of March.
If you ask either of them, however, it was never in doubt.
"It couldn't have ended any other way, I couldn't even imagine if we hadn't won at nationals," beamed Moppett. "It's perfect, it's just been a five year process."
"I knew if the two of us really wanted it, we could get it," added Friend.
Even Boyles had unwavering faith in the pair's drive and ability.
"The two of them wouldn't let this team lose, they just wouldn't," marveled the proud coach. "It would have been just tragic to have a couple of the people who were responsible for making this program a contender not win a title."
But they did win a title, and their departure marks the end of an era for Dinos Athletics. What started when Boyles made Moppett the first player he ever recruited as head coach in 1999, continued through Friend coming out of nowhere to give the squad a serious presence at the net, and suffered countless near misses and what ifs, ended in storybook fashion.
"It's a pretty crazy feeling," smiled Moppett. "I never thought I would be able to walk away, but I think I'm done. I think I'm finally able to move on."
Both her and Friend may move on, but after so many years in the program, three days in Saskatoon and 13 stellar teammates helped the pair cement their legacy and their legend.