Volleyball team eager to build off last season

Photo courtesy of Hamed Yaghoubi Shahir

Last season: 5th

Coaches Poll for 2015: 5th

Last season was a milestone year for SFU’s volleyball team. They finished with an 11–7 record in conference play — their best ever — and finished 5th overall in the standings. It was a huge improvement over the previous season, where they finished with a 6–12 record. The challenge now for the team is to improve on that, given the high expectations from fans.

“I think we learned a lot going through last season,” remarked head coach Gina Schmidt. “Although we lost several seniors who contributed a lot last year, we have a solid core of returners that I think gained experience throughout the season and will be ready to step in and fill in the roles that have been vacated.”

Coach Schmidt also discussed the change in mindset of the team heading into the season, now that their rebuilding years are behind them. “We have that mentality of being able to compete with anyone in the conference. With the players we’ve brought in, we’ve added some size and athleticism, and I think we have added a good balance of experience and skill.”

A number of new players have joined the team this year, including Emma Jennings, a native of Port Moody who spent the last two seasons at the University of Toronto. “[Emma] brings some good experience and an all-around game,” according to Schmidt. “I see her contributing a lot this season.” Middle blocker Tessa May is also expected to play a fair amount of minutes.

One of the challenges this season will be to quickly integrate all of the new faces, if the team hopes to have another winning season. “It starts with our fall training. For two weeks we do double days (two practices a day), so it’s a lot of works on fundamentals, team systems, and also opportunities to spend time together and bond as a team. So we try to play a lot; it’s just a matter of getting players up to the speed of the game in terms of what we are trying to accomplish on the court.”

For the team to improve this season, they will have to have a better showing against the top three teams in the conference, Northwest Nazarene, Alaska Anchorage, and Western Washington. “Last year we took some strides, but we were not able to get over the hump of the top three teams. We looking to take some strides and hopefully win some games there if we can.”

Last year, the Clan was counting on a similar core group of player to help them improve. With four different seniors graduating and with significantly higher expectations, the team will be hoping to make a solid push for the top three this season.