Canada West Women’s Volleyball Preview

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October 26, 2012, EDMONTON – The 2012-13 Canada West volleyball campaign opened on Thursday, and there are now 12 teams in the conference.  With Mount Royal joining and still just seven teams qualifying for the post-season, every match on the schedule becomes even more important… here is a 2012-13 team-by-team season preview.

ALBERTA PANDAS

2011-12 conference record: 14-6 (2nd)

2012 playoffs: 4-0 (CW gold)

2012 CIS tournament: 2-1 (silver)

Last CW title: 2012

Last CIS title: 2007

CIS ranking: #3

CW ranking: #2

Key additions: Kacey Otto (OH), Gbemisola Olutogun (OH), Jessica Stroud (M), Sierra Simpson (M)

Key returnees: Jaki Ellis (S), Krista Zubick (LS), Alyssa Jones (S/RS), Lia Stang (M), Jessie Niles (LS), Maddy McDonald (L), Amy Kowalchuk (M)

Key departures: Alena Omelchenko (OH), Caitlin Buckell (M), Whitney Matheson (OH), Erin Walsh (L), Jenice Warkentin (M)

EDMONTON – The strength of the Alberta Pandas will be on display in 2012-13, as they defend their Canada West title.

In 2012 the Pandas won their 10th Canada West title in the last 20 years when they defeated the three-time defending champion UBC Thunderbirds, and then finished second at the CIS championship tournament.

Despite losing five players from that roster, including four starters, Laurie Eisler’s Alberta squad should once again be in contention for not only the Canada West crown, but the CIS banner as well.

Among those returning to the Pandas are starting all-Canadian setter, and Team Canada member, Jaki Ellis, starting left-side Krista Zubick, who sat out much of 2011 with health issues, as well as starting setter/right-side Alyssa Jones, and middle Lia Stang. Sophomore left-side Jessie Niles, who played libero at times in 2011, also returns, as does libero Maddy McDonald and middle Amy Kowalchuk.

Joining the program are a slew of blue-chip recruits from Calgary including the hard-hitting Kacey Otto (OH), as well Gbemisola Olutogun (OH) and Sierra Simpson (M). Edmonton-born Jessica Stroud, who plays middle, is also a key recruit.

Alberta, owners of a 6-2 preseason record, opens the regular season on the October 26-27 weekend against the Saskatchewan Huskies at home in the Saville Community Sport Centre.

http://www.bears.ualberta.ca/ 

BRANDON BOBCATS

2011-12 conference record: 9-11 (8th)

2012 playoffs:

Last CW title: N/A

Last CIS title: N/A

CIS ranking: N/A

CW ranking: #7

Key additions: Jodie Baker, Kendra Bommersbach, Jasmine Lafournaise, Brooke Huculak, Gillian Leech, Mary Thomson

Key returnees: Kellie Baker, Alexis Loewen, Meaghan Robertson, Tori Dakin, Larissa Vonkeman, Chloe Reimer, Shanlee McLennan, Brianna Walsh

Key departures: Jaryn Ruether, Claire Willerton, Lindsay McLaughlin

BRANDON, MB – After missing the Canada West playoffs by just one set in 2011-12, the Brandon Bobcats look to bounce back into the playoff picture this year.

Similar to last year, the Bobcats are a relatively young squad with no fifth-years and only two fourth-years, but what the Cats certainly don’t lack is athleticism and a will to win.

Leading the offense this year will be fourth-year setter and Brandon-product Kellie Baker. In just her first full-season as a starter last year, Baker put up impressive numbers averaging 9.04 assists per set. Joining Baker on the offensive side are stand-out third-year players in middle Meaghan Robertson and outside hitters Tori Dakin and Chloe Reimer.

Also joining Baker will be her younger sister Jodie, who is one of six Manitoba recruits who committed to the program this past summer. Joining Jodie are fellow Brandonites Gillian Leech and Mary Thomson, as well as Russell-product Jasmine Lafournaise, Winnipegger Kendra Bommersbach, and Elton Collegiate graduate Brooke Huculak.

Depth is another strength for this year’s squad, as the Bobcats’ roster also features third-year middle Larissa Vonkeman and sophomores Brianna Walsh and Shanlee McLennan, who was named MVP of this past summer’s National Team Challenge Cup.

Brandon welcomes Thompson Rivers for the 2012 Bobcats home-opener after starting the season on the road in Regina on October 26. Starting the season with a bang, and eventually returning to the post-season is something the Bobcats will have their sights set on this season.

http://www.gobobcats.ca/ 

UBC THUNDERBIRDS

2011-12 conference record: 18-2 (1st)

2012 playoffs: 1-1 (CW silver)

2012 CIS tournament: 3-0 (gold)

Last CW title: 2011

Last CIS title: 2012

CIS ranking: #2

CW ranking: #1

Key additions: Juliana Kaufmanis, Danielle Brisebois, Emily Cicon

Key returnees: Shanice Marcelle, Brina Derksen-Bergen, Lisa Barclay, Briana Liau Kent

Key departures: Kyla Richey, Rayel Quiring

VANCOUVER – The UBC Thunderbirds completed the drive for five, winning the school’s fifth consecutive CIS championship last year over Canada West champions, Alberta.

UBC returns four starters, including 2011 CIS Most Valuable Player and First Team All-Star Shanice Marcelle, 2012 CIS championship MVP Lisa Barclay and Canada West Second Team All-Star Brina Derksen-Bergen.

However, the team will no longer have the services of graduated stars Rayel Quiring and National team member Kyla Richey, who won the 2012 Mary Lyons Award as the nation’s best player.

Newcomers include Juliana Kaufmanis and Danielle Brisebois, who were both on Canada’s Junior National team this past summer.

http://www.gothunderbirds.ca/ 

UBC OKANAGAN HEAT

2011-12 conference record: 6-14 (9th)

Last CW title: N/A

Last CIS title: N/A

CIS ranking: N/A

CW ranking: #8

Key additions: Emily Oxland, Megan Festival, Katie Wuttunee

Key returnees: Alex Basso, Jill Festival, Myrte Schön, Katy Klomps, Kendra Wayling, Brianna Beamish

Key departures: Chandler Proch, Kaylan Gouldsbourogh

KELOWNA, BC – Although the UBC Okanagan Heat missed playoff in their first CIS season, they enjoyed a very successful first season highlighted with a strong finish, winning three of their last four matches.

Head coach Steve Manuel, in his 12th year with the team, will look to continue to mix his veteran players with the players that debuted for him last season, and a couple of grade A recruits to best the team’s six total wins from 2011-12.

Middle blocker Katy Klomps (Surrey, BC) played in all of the team’s 20 matches, was fourth in the CIS with 85 total blocks in her first season. Another first year player, Brianna Beamish (Surrey, BC) in her first saw significant floor time and will be a major part of the Heat in her sophomore season.

Alex Basso (Kelowna, BC) and Myrte Schön (Langley, BC) both excelled at the college ranks and will look to regain their elite status after a full year learning how to play in the CIS. Basso and Schön were one-two in points scored for the Heat in 2011-12 at 3.1 and 2.9 points per set respectively.

Running the offence will be the 2012 No. 1 BC high school female volleyball player, Emily Oxland from Handsworth Secondary. Backing up Emily will be Alison Gill, another setter out of high school, and Kendra Wayling (Castlegar, BC). Fourth year Wayling is a middle blocker who stepped into the setter’s role part-time, her versatility has been invaluable to the squad.

Newcomers Megan Festival, younger sister of fourth year Jillian, Katie Wuttenee and Kaitlynn Given are new to the roster.

http://www.ubc.ca/okanagan/athletics/welcome.html 

CALGARY DINOS

2011-12 conference record: 11-9 (5th)

2012 playoffs: 0-2

Last CW title: 2005

Last CIS title: 2004

CIS ranking: #10

CW ranking: #5

Key additions: Ali Woolley, Morgan Dale

Key returnees: Lindsey Doland, Sarah Moncks, Brooke Halvorsen

Key departures: Sarah Lacny, Melanie Miazga

CALGARY – After a fifth-place finish in 2011-12, the Dinos are pegged to finish in that position again this year, and with a veteran-laden lineup including four fifth-year starters, they will make a push to return to the CIS championship after a three-year absence.

The quartet of outside hitters Lindsey Doland, Sarah Moncks, and Andrea Price along with libero Brooke Halvorsen provide a steady, veteran presence for second-year head coach Natalie Schwartz, though an injury to Halvorsen will keep her out for the first half of the season.

Stepping into the starting role at the pivotal setter spot is third-year Jordhynn Guy, who understudied with Sarah Lacny for two seasons and steps into the role vacated by Lacny’s graduation. And in the middle, the graduation of Melanie Miazga gives Courtney Dawson an opportunity to shine – and Dawson has been dominant in the pre-season.

Freshman Morgan Dale of White Rock, B.C. takes over at libero with the veteran Halvorsen out, and Schwartz singled out the play of rookie Ali Woolley from Toronto as a positive during non-conference play.

The Dinos open the 2012-13 season with a home-and-home series in the Crowchild Classic as they take on new crosstown rival Mount Royal. It opens Friday, Oct. 26 at home in the Jack Simpson Gym, with the return match Saturday night down the road at MRU.

http://www.godinos.com/ 

MANITOBA BISONS

2011-12 conference record: 11-9 (6th)

2012 playoffs: 0-2

Last CW title: 1971

Last CIS title: 2002

CIS ranking: #5

CW ranking: #4

Key addition: Taylor Pischke

Key returnees: Nicole Hall, Christina Souza, Crystal Mulder Rachel Cockrell

Key departures: Kristi Hunter

WINNIPEG – Last season was a ‘what could have been’ for the Manitoba Bisons. It was an extremely young team with only a couple of fifth-year players that battled hard and suffered some injuries during their abridged playoff run that could have been a longer post-season.

This season sees the young team learn from 2011-12 and accumulate benefits of tons of playing time for the rookies and added experience for most of the Bisons playing at the Challenge Cup during the summer.

Libero and team captain Nicole Hall (fourth in conference digs last season) is the lone fifth-year veteran on this squad with no fourth-year players and only one third-year player. The majority of the team (13 of 15) is comprised of either rookies or sophomore players.

With so much youth, some might overlook this team but they could surprise many. The initial goal is a big one – to qualify for the CIS Nationals, as Manitoba has not made it since 2010.

The strong sophomore crew includes setter Christina Souza who was selected to the 2011-12 CIS All-Rookie Team and fifth in conference assists, left/right side Rachel Cockerill who returns after missing last season due to injury, right side Crystal Mulder who was tied for seventh in conference service aces and middle Jordana Milne was first in Canada West blocks.

In addition, second-year left side Taylor Pischke joins the Bisons after a spectacular off-season. She was part of the team that tied for fifth at the 2012 FIVB Beach Volleyball Junior World championships after winning the 2012 Canadian women’s beach volleyball championship plus named to the National team. Pischke returned to Manitoba after one season at the University of California (Santa Barbara) in 2011-12.

http://www.gobisons.ca/ 

MOUNT ROYAL COUGARS

2011-12 conference record: 18-2 (1st, ACAC)

2012 playoffs: ACAC gold medal

Last CW title: N/A

Last CIS title: N/A

CIS ranking: N/A

CW ranking: #9

Key additions: Carolyn O’Dwyer, Kylie Willis, Tayler Smith

Key returnees: Julia Pasieka, Mackenzie Allen, Olivia Grecu, Fallon Middlemiss

Key departure: Paige Dean

CALGARY – The Mount Royal Cougars have a good mix of experience and incoming talent, but head coach Sandra Lamb says they are in a sense all newcomers.

The Cougars join the ranks of university sports as members of Canada West. They open their conference schedule Oct. 26-27 against cross-town rival University of Calgary Dinos.

The Cougars were runners-up in Canadian Colleges Athletic Association in 2011-12 in Lamb’s 15th season running the Cougars bench and the school’s final year in the college ranks. The Cougars won the national title the previous year.

The core of the Cougars squad includes plenty of fourth-year experience: right side Olivia Grecu, who is coming back from an injury; 6-2 middle Julia Pasieka, who was a CCAA all-Canadian in 2011-12; setter Mackenzie Allen; libero Julie Deveson; and outside hitter Breanna Estabrook, who returns after taking a season off.

Also back are third-year outside Fallon Middlemiss and second year setter Jenna Smith. The Cougars welcome three transfers from former ACAC competitors: Tayler Smith, Jill Irvine and Christine Charlemagne.

A quartet of first-year recruits will challenge for significant playing time. Carolyn O’Dwyer, Kylie Willis (of nearby Cochrane) come from the Dinos

www.mtroyal.ca/cougars 

REGINA COUGARS

2011-12 conference record: 5-15 (10th)

Last CW title: N/A

Last CIS title: N/A

CIS ranking: N/A

CW ranking: #10

Key additions: OH Desiree Ates, OH Shelby Hack

Key returnees: MB Michelle Sweeting, RS Chelsea Ziolkowski, MB Trisha Dobson

Key departures: S Tiffany Herman, MB Solveig Nilson, OH Roxanne Olynyk, OH Meagan Onstad

REGINA – Returning only two starters from last year’s team, the Regina Cougars sport a vastly different look in 2012-13.

One of just three returning players past their second year of eligibility, middle Michelle Sweeting has impressed 11th-year head coach Melanie Sanford with her progression over the offseason. Sweeting was limited for a large portion of last season due to injury, but has returned to full strength and will serve as the U of R’s captain this season.

Also returning is right side Chelsea Ziolkowski, who started 13 matches for the Cougars last year and collected 90 kills. Middle blocker Trisha Dobson saw action in the first 10 matches of the conference schedule for the U of R last season and will transition into a full-time starter for the Cougars this year. Megan Semeniuk has been used mostly as a defensive specialist over her first three seasons with the Cougars, and will replace Rebecca Rink as the team’s full-time libero this season.

Controlling the offence will be second-year setter Meagan Lane, who apprenticed under Tiffany Herman last season and saw playing time in four of the team’s 20 Canada West matches.

Sanford expects University of New Hampshire transfer Desiree Ates, second-year player Tori Glynn, and rookie Shelby Hack (Dr. Martin LeBoldus HS) to all see significant playing time at left side. Glynn played 13 conference matches for the Cougars last season, while Ates played in 12 matches for UNH last season before transferring to the U of R.

The Cougars open up the conference schedule this weekend with a pair of home matches against Brandon.

http://www.reginacougars.com/ 

SASKATCHEWAN HUSKIES

2011-12 conference record: 0-20 (11th)

Last CW title: 1992

Last CIS title: 1981

CIS ranking: N/A

CW ranking: #11

Key additions: Carmen Dubnick, Jina Barker

Key returnees: Candace Hueser, Kayla Tycholiz

Key departures: Erin Foster, Laura Beadle

SASKATOON – With nine new faces on the Saskatchewan Huskies, they plan on being a frustrating opponent in 2012-13.

Shed of the interim tag in the summer, Huskie head coach Jason Grieve will look for his team to be a difficult team to play against in the perennially tough Canada West conference. Grieve was named the Huskies third official head coach in modern-program history in May 2012.

In 2012-13, Saskatchewan’s strengths will be about defence and passing.

Captain and outside hitter Candace Hueser, as well as middle blocker Kayla Tycholiz, will be looked at to lead the team. The fourth-year Hueser has led the Huskies in kills in her three CIS seasons including 2011-12 when she tallied 189. She also recorded 212 points and 110 digs last year. Tycholiz will be looked at to contribute more offensively after an outstanding rookie season with 117 kills and 57 blocks.

Joining the team for 2012-13 is setter Jina Barker and outside hitter Carmen Dubnick. Both have experience playing volleyball at the collegiate level. Barker played one season with the University of Winnipeg Wesmen, while Dubnick played with the Lakeland College Rustlers. Both are competitive athletes who will add experience and quickness to the Huskies.

The Huskies open the season on the road against the Alberta Pandas October 26-27.

http://huskies.usask.ca/ 

THOMPSON RIVERS WOLFPACK

2011-12 conference record: 9-11 (7th)

2012 playoffs: 0-2

Last CW title: N/A

Last CIS title: N/A

CIS ranking: N/A

CW ranking: #12

Key additions: Katie Woo (setter), Hillary Schell (outside hitter)

Key returnees: Katarina Osadchuk (middle), Brianne Rauch (outside hitter)

Key departures: Kelly Asleson, Amanda Frayne

KAMLOOPS, BC – After making the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, the WolfPack have undergone a major revamping. head coach Keith Lundgren has virtually recruited an entire new roster.

The WolfPack have no fourth or fifth-year players and have only three returnees: Katarina Osadchuk (middle, Brisbane, Australia), Brianne Rauch (outside hitter, Kimberly, BC), Carly Nelson (Victoria) and Morgan Kolasa (Calgary). Kolasa is unable to return due to an injury until late in the 2012-13 campaign.

Rookies on the roster this year include Katie Wood (Surrey, BC), Kristen Giesbrecht (Gretna, MB), Hillary Schell (Kelowna, BC) and Julia Niemczewska (Calgary). Niewmczewska’s sister Joanna is a former CIS all-star with the University of Calgary.

http://www.tru.ca/athletics.html 

TRINITY WESTERN SPARTANS

2011-12 conference record: 13-7 (4th)

2012 playoffs: 3-1 (CW bronze)

20122 CIS tournament: 2-1 (5th)

Last CW title: N/A

Last CIS title: N/A

CIS ranking: #1

CW ranking: #3

Key additions: Sophie Carpentier, Kristen Moncks, Chelsea Tancon

Key returnees: Kelci French, Nicole Bazin, Amy Ott (Leschied), Alicia Perrin, Royal Richardson

Key departures: Chelsea Hudson, Jodi Neufeld

LANGLEY, BC – The Trinity Western Spartans enter the season with plenty of optimism, and judging by its preseason #1 ranking in CIS, high expectations.

After a disappointing fifth-place finish at last year’s national championship, five of seven starters return to the Spartans, who had a chance to represent Canada in September at the U23 Pan American Cup where they finished sixth, should be able to pick up right from where they left off last season.

Returning from last year’s starting unit are middles Nicole Bazin and Canada West First Team All-Star Alicia Perrin, outsides Amy Ott (Leschied) and Canada West Second Team All-Star Royal Richardson, and setter-turned-hitter-turned-setter Kelci French. And with French moving back to her natural setting position, the Spartans will have one of the best in the country running the floor.

Add to that the fact the Spartans have seven other returning players, including the likes of Carly Hamilton, Amber Brown, Casie Gano and Chelsea Wand, and the Spartans not only have a strong starting group but also a deep bench.

The Spartans are also expecting incoming recruits libero Kristen Moncks, who comes to TWU after a record-setting season with Medicine Hat of the ACAC (Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference) in which she averaged 5.2 digs per set, and outside Sophie Carpentier to make an immediate impact.

http://www.twu.ca/athletics/ 

WINNIPEG WESMEN

2011-12 conference record: 14-7 (3rd)

2012 playoffs: 2-2 (CW 4th)

Last CW title: N/A

Last CIS title: 1993

CIS ranking: N/A

CW ranking: #6

Key additions: Sarah Lynch, Hope Schneider, Alyssa Kidd

Key returnees: Carleen Kruschel, Ozana Nikolic, Alicia Perry, Ellina Domnidou, Tia Boroski

Key departures: Lauren Sears, Tesca Andrew-Wasylik, Brittany Habing

WINNIPEG – The Winnipeg Wesmen will be looking for bigger and better things in 2012-13.

Head coach Diane Scott, entering her 18th season on the bench, will be looking to improve on last season.

The team will have a good core of veterans returning to the fold. Fourth-year left side and team captain Carleen Kruschel along with fellow fourth-year middle blocker Alicia Perry will see plenty of court time and will be looked upon to provide leadership on and off the court.

Ozana Nikolic returns for her second season with the team after a very successful rookie season that resulted in her being named both the Canada West and CIS Rookie of the Year. Ellina Domnidou also returns for her second season and will be looking to be a major factor for the team. Tia Boroski saw playing time at the libero position last year. This season Boroski will also see time as an outside hitter.

The team will have several first-year players looking to make an impression. Sarah Lynch a 6-2 middle and outside hitter joins the team after a successful stint with the Ontario U19 squad. First-year setter Hope Schneider will set up the attack for the team. Alyssa Kidd from Glenlawn Collegiate in Winnipeg will be the starting libero. Local recruits Zoe Pellerin, Chelsea Jones, Hailey Buhler and Kasey Bennell round out the list of first-year players.

http://www.wesmen.ca/ 

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