New leadership sets Clan up for positive year

WEB-captain volleyball-mark burnham

With a brand-new coaching staff and a new team mantra, the Clan women’s volleyball team is ready to be taken seriously. The 2012 campaign was far from successful, but the team is ready to apply what they learned from last year’s difficult season, and make their mark in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference this year.

The young team went 4-22 overall in last year’s competitions, winning only one conference match over the three-month period. But the Clan is ready for 2013 now, headed by a new coaching staff, and fueled by the desire to show the conference that they belong.

Team captains Kelsey Robinson, Amanda Renkema and Brooklyn Gould-Bradbury explain the transition, and their new outlook and passion for the game, “The past few seasons have been tough,” said Renkema, a middle blocker, and the only one of the three to have donned a Clan uniform in 2012. “The losing wasn’t so much the hardship as much as the not winning. We took so many teams to five sets, and were competitors in every match. Not being able to finish many games was very tough.”

The 6’1” Delta, BC native was second on the team in points per set and in blocks in 2012, averaging 2.59 points each set, and had 75 blocks on the season, a clear leader on the young squad both on and off the court.

Robinson, a 5’11” left side from Surrey, BC was sidelined by a knee injury for the 2012 season, but the junior found her red-shirt season to be eye-opening as well. “I really learned about the level of passion I have for volleyball when I sat out last season,” she explained. “I feel like I will be a more passionate and competitive player now because of it, which hopefully I can translate into my leadership role.”

Leadership will come from the trio of juniors, as well as from new head coach Gina Schmidt, a former University of Montana assistant.

“The reason that I came to SFU was because I knew Gina from high school ball as well as from playing in college,” explained Gould-Bradbury, a transfer from North Idaho College and a Seattle native. “I respect Gina a lot as a coach and am looking forward to what the team can learn from her expertise.”

Gould-Bradbury joins the Clan after two seasons at North Idaho, where she was named a National Junior College Athletics Association All-American and served as team captain in 2012. “My role as a leader will be different this year than in years past,” the 5’7” setter explained. “Not knowing a lot about the school, area, or even other athletes, my role as a leader so far will be on the court. I’ll be focusing on trying to bring hustle, communication, and encouragement to practice and game play.”

“This year’s group of athletes seem more mentally tough than in the past,” continued Renkema. “Everyone wants to succeed, especially as a team, and there have been a lot of selfless actions taken by many players for the betterment of the group as a whole.”

And the 2013 freshman class is an important part of that group, with the incoming selection of players offering both skill and spirit to the team. Freshmen Alison McKay, Devon May and Mackenzie Dunham have already seen the floor, with McKay leading the team in digs after the first weekend of play.

“I am really excited about the freshman class,” outside hitter Robinson shared. “They all bring something unique to the program that we will be able to use throughout the season. They are also extremely competitive, which bodes well for the future of the program.”

With hard work and perseverance planned for the 2013 season, the women will also be looking to use their NCAA experience to help them move forward, a first for the team who’s junior and senior contingent have been rather diminished in recent years.

“I think we experienced a sort of roller coaster with our mental game last season, which can be attributed to our lack of experience as players, so I am excited for this coming up season,” Renkema said. “Not only do most of the starting players have at least one year of NCAA experience under our belts but also because over the past year, we have become a lot more united, understand our roles as individual players better and have got some new perspective and insight on mental game from our coaches.”

With that kind of attitude, and a goal of completing their first winning season in the GNAC, the SFU women’s volleyball squad is ready for 2013 and the challenges and growth it will bring.