Photos by Kyle West
By: Adriana Skaljin
The McMaster women’s volleyball team is off to a unique start, having introduced several new players following key departures from last season, including several Ontario University Athletics all-stars. As opposed to becoming discouraged by the challenge of adjusting to a new roster, the Marauders have established a positive approach to this season.
“We’re working our way to rebuild some missing years of experience, seeing as we have so many new players,” said head coach Tim Louks.
These new players have been described positively, due to their passion for the game and willingness to learn how to play at a university level.
“They all entered with great enthusiasm,” said Louks. “They realize the difficulty that comes with playing at a university level, and know that they need to practice.”
Jessie Nairn, a third-year commerce student and right side, described how the new players will have ample opportunity to play this year and get onto the court.
“The new athletes bring great energy to the court and are all competitive,” said Nairn. “They are all still adjusting, but [us veterans] are also adjusting because we lost so many players.”
Despite their lack of experience, Louks, who has coached the team for 30 years, explained how they have a lot to bring to the court, playing well throughout the preseason. The team had a rough start to the regular season, losing 2-3 against Ryerson University on Oct. 20, and the University of Toronto on Oct. 26.
“We had opportunities to win sets, but it slipped away,” explained Louks. “We have what it takes, we just need to work on finding results.”
Like Louks, his players have a similar positive attitude towards the losses. Hailey Kranics, a third-year political science student who plays middle, explained how the energy during the game against Toronto prepared them for what is yet to come.
“That game felt like a playoff game,” said Kranics. “This prepares us for the actual playoffs.”
“Losing the games might not be the worst, because [they] show us that we are still trying to figure ourselves out and that there is nothing stopping us from winning,” Nairn added.
Kranics and Nairn now find themselves in leadership roles on the team, due to the loss of many upper-year players. As third-year students, they stepped up to the challenge and have recognized the difficulties and pressures that come with being players to which others look up.
“I feel more involved and accountable this year,” explained Kranics. “I am constantly paying attention to the things I do and look at how they affect those around me.”
Likewise, Nairn touched upon how both their leadership roles and their playing time have increased.
“Last year, I didn’t have as big of a playing role as I do this year,” said Nairn. “Being one of the older players is a big adjustment to be thrown into.”
With the responsibilities of being a team leader comes the ability to recognize the newness of the team, while trying to stimulate ways of figuring each other out. This creates the need to balance both personal growth and self-realization, while understanding how to play as a cohesive unit. It takes a good leader to be able to work through these barriers, and coach Louks commended the effort of his new leaders.
“[They] are receptive to trying to provide guidance and have been committed and dedicated to figur[ing] out how to lead,” Louks said.
The coaching staff has also taken new leadership, with the return of former assistant coach Nathan Janzen resuming the role he previously held with the program.
“This injection has garnered more attention to detail and needed provision, due to his tremendous level of volleyball expertise,” said Louks.
On top of this staff addition, the coaches have implemented an expansion of fitness training and a higher level of determination.
“This year, we have more determination and tougher coaching that focuses on making players understand that we need to sort out our team mentality and win,” said Nairn.
It is with this positive attitude and drive for success that the McMaster women’s volleyball team pulled off back-to-back wins against Queen’s University and the Royal Military College of Canada on Nov. 9 and 10. The team is definitely in the works of pulling off another great season and are making a strong attempt towards achieving their goal of obtaining OUA gold.