2013-14 Canada West women’s volleyball preview


October 23, 2013, EDMONTON (ISN) – The 2013-14 Canada West volleyball schedule opens on Thursday night in Winnipeg, with a full weekend of matches to follow.

Here is a glance at all 12 conference women’s volleyball teams ahead of the season…


  • 2012-13 conference record: 15-7 (3rd)
  • 2013 CW playoffs: 3-1 (bronze)
  • 2013 CIS tournament: 2-1 (silver)
  • Last CW title: 2012
  • Last CIS title: 2007
  • CIS ranking: N/A
  • CW ranking: #6
  • Key additions: Gbemisola Olutogun (OH), Sierra Simpson (M/OH), Mariah Walsh (S), Eryn Orysiuk (S)
  • Key returnees: Kacey Otto (OH), Jessie Niles (libero), Karly Janssen (OH), Dione Lang (M), Meg Cassault (OH), Annie Abbott (S)
  • Key departures: Jaki Ellis (S), Krista Zubick (LS), Alyssa Jones (S/RS), Lia Stang (M)

EDMONTON – Youth will be served on the 2013-14 University of Alberta Pandas’ volleyball roster. After capturing back-to-back CIS championship silver medals in 2012 and 2013, plus a Canada West title in 2012, the Pandas are reloading in 2013-14. With the loss of four starters from 2012, including perennial All-Canadian and CIS tournament all-star Jaki Ellis, the Pandas will be younger in 2013-14, with 10 first or second year players, but still a team that will challenge for the Canada West playoff picture.

The 2013-14 lineup will showcase just three players who received starting time the previous year in Kacey Otto, Jessie Niles and Dione Lang, but will allow for more players to play their way onto the starting formation. The offence should be lead by sophomore outside Otto who was named to the CIS All-Rookie team in 2012-13. The daughter of former NHL’er Joel Otto, Kacey is a force at both the net and service line, and could one of the top attacking players in the conference. She’s joined in the attack by players Karly Janssen and Meg Cassault, both of whom are second year players who did not start last season.

Annie Abbott, who is in her third year, will run Alberta’s offence, while middles Dione Lang, Amy Kowalchuk and Jessica Stroud will be key for Alberta as well. Lang, a fourth-year, and Kowalchuk, a fifth-year, are the only two players on the roster who are in their fourth or fifth seasons of CIS eligibility.

In 2013 the Pandas claimed their second consecutive CIS silver medal, and finished with a Canada West bronze.

Joining the program is a pair of blue-chip recruits from Calgary including Gbemisola Olutogun (OH) and Sierra Simpson (M), while rookie setters Eryn Orysiuk and Mariah Walsh are being groomed for the future.

Alberta, owners of a 7-5 preseason record, opens the regular season on the October 25-26 weekend in Saskatoon against the Saskatchewan Huskies.



  • 2012-13 conference record: 8-14 (9th, missed playoffs)
  • Last CW title: N/A
  • Last CIS title: N/A
  • CIS ranking: #5t
  • CW ranking: #5
  • Key additions: Donata Huebert, Regan Dahl, Vaovai Aiono, Margy Lafaele, Savannah Guttman
  • Key returnees: Kellie Baker, Alexis Loewen, Meaghan Robertson, Tori Dakin, Shanlee McLennan, Brianna Walsh
  • Key departures: Chloe Reimer, Larissa Vonkeman, Kendra Bommersbach

BRANDON, MB – The Brandon Bobcats have narrowly missed the playoffs the past two seasons, and will be looking to get back to the post-season this year. A handful of returning players who’ve gained experience, newcomers who add to the team dynamic, and a familiar face that helped the Bobcats to the playoffs in her one previous (and award-winning) season in the Canada West conference all combine to make the Bobcats the strongest they’ve been entering a season in recent memory.

Fifth-year setter Kellie Baker will shoulder a lot of the offence and leadership. As one of two fifth-years (the other being middle Alexis Loewen) the Crocus Plains High School grad will quarterback the offence and provide stability.

The Bobcats also return powerful starting attackers in left-side Shanlee McLennan, middle Meaghan Robertson, and right-side Tori Dakin. Each are each coming off strong seasons last year, and this will be the second season all three will start at the same positions. Robertson has finished in the top 10 in attack efficiency in the conference in each of her previous three seasons as a Bobcat. Dakin led the team in kills last year and was one of only two Bobcats to start in all 22 of BU’s matches last season. McLennan was deadly from the service line, finishing tied for second in the conference with 39 aces.

This season also marks the return of 2010-11 CIS libero of the year Donata Huebert after two years of playing pro in Europe. The Minden, Germany product played for Saint-Raphaël Volleyball club in France this past season. Huebert is expected to have a huge impact, as evidenced in the pre-season where she helped the ‘Cats to victory at the University of Winnipeg Unruh Invitational Tournament, in which she was named tourney tournament MVP.

Three returnees had busy off-seasons. McLennan, and sophomores Jodie Baker and Mary Thomson represented Manitoba in this past summer’s Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke, helping bring home a bronze medal from the games. McLennan is expected to play a large role in the Bobcats offence again this season, after finishing second on the team in kills, and tied for second in the Canada West conference lead in service aces (39).



  • 2012-13 conference record: 21-1 (1st)
  • 2013 CW playoffs: 2-0 (gold)
  • 2013 CIS tournament: 3-0 (gold, 6th in a row)
  • Last CW title: 2013
  • Last CIS title: 2013
  • CIS ranking: #1
  • CW ranking: #1
  • Key additions: Alessandra Gentile, Nicola Laniuk, Laura MacTaggart
  • Key returnees: Lisa Barclay, Briana Liau Kent, Rosie Schlagintweit, Mariah Bruinsma
  • Key departures: Shanice Marcelle, Brina Derksen-Bergen, Jessica von Schilling, Danielle Richards

VANCOUVER – After the UBC women’s volleyball program’s sixth consecutive CIS title win last year tied them with the all-time championship streaks of Winnipeg (1982-1988) and Alberta (1994-2000), the Thunderbirds will have a chance to make history this season as they look for number seven.

Despite several key players from last year having moved on, the Thunderbirds are probably as well-equipped as any team to deal with such heavy roster turnover, and it starts with the first-team All-Canadian and two-time CIS Championship MVP Lisa Barclay. She and fellow fourth-year Rosie Schlagintweit combined for over six kills per game last season, and that production should only increase as they now form UBC’s one-two punch on the outside with Marcelle gone.

Rounding out the hitter ranks are third-year Alissa Coulter, who averaged about a kill per game last season off the bench, as well as Juliana Kaufmanis and Danielle Brisebois, who both performed well in limited duties as rookies last year.

Reimer also expected rookie left-side Laura MacTaggart to be in the mix right away for the ‘Birds, but the junior national team member from Alberta has been out recovering from an ankle injury and has not yet resumed training.

Up the middle, Reimer has two proven veterans returning to the mix, as well as a talented new recruit and a redshirt rookie, making it perhaps the most solidified position on the court after the personnel changes.

Abigail Keeping averaged about a kill and a half on .325 hitting last year, giving the ‘Birds a great offensive option up the middle. She and Mariah Bruinsma each averaged about one block per game as well. Behind them will be redshirt freshman Emily Cicon, and new rookie Nicola Laniuk, who was the third-ranked BC High Schooler by The Province, and at 6-foot-3 gives the ‘Birds some great size on the block.

Another stable position for the ‘Birds is the libero spot, where well-established starter Briana Liau Kent enters her fifth year. Second-year Kaitlin Crawford is a strong backup option, providing energy and defensive intensity off the bench.

The starting setter job will change hands with Derksen-Bergen graduating. Although Kirsty Setterlund originally joined the team as a walk-on, she has worked her way into a valuable contributor in each of the last two title runs and Reimer is confident that she’s ready for the starting gig.



  • 2012-13 conference record: 15-7 (3rd)
  • 2013 playoffs: 0-2
  • Last CW title: N/A
  • Last CIS title: N/A
  • CIS ranking: #4
  • CW ranking: #4
  • Key additions: Chandler Proch, Michelle Jakszuk, Erin Drew, Siobhan Fitzpatrick
  • Key returnees: Brianna Beamish, Emily Oxland, Jill Festival, Katy Klomps, Kendra Wayling, Megan Festival,
  • Key departures: Alex Basso, Emily Carroll

KELOWNA, BC – A truly splendid second season in Canada West saw the UBC Okanagan Heat women’s volleyball team play some spectacular volleyball in the toughest conference in the nation. Head coach Steve Manuel, with a year of Canada West under his belt, took his team to the brink of the Canada West Final Four and a hosting berth in the post season.

Manuel improved his team by nine wins and six spots in the standings in a single year, and with the loss of just one starting player will once again set his sights on the post season.

With more depth than he has ever had before, Manual will have two solid setters to orchestrate the offense this year as Chandler Proch returns to the lineup following major surgery and will be paired with CIS all-rookie team and Canada West All-Star Emily Oxland. The second year setter from North Vancouver set a conference record with 46 aces in her first year. Oxland won’t be the only sophomore to have a key role for this team as Megan Festival (OH) and Kaitlynn Given (OH) both saw significant floor time in their freshman season and both played big roles over the summer for their respective provinces at the Canada Games – meeting in the final as opponents on TSN.

Four other members of the Heat were members of that BC squad and will all be a big part of UBC Okanagan this year. Oxland was BC’s setter, Brianna Beamish a third year outside hitter, and the third year middle duo of Katie Wuttunee and Katy Klomps also played for their province over the summer. All of these provincial team athletes will be a big part of this Heat team for the next few years.

The five are outside hitters Jill Festival and Myrte Schön, libero Lenai Schmidt and former UBC Okanagan Heat athlete of the year middle Kendra Wayling, whose versatility has been invaluable to the squad over the years.



  • 2012-13 conference record: 11-11, 7th)
  • 2013 playoffs: 0-2
  • 2013 CIS tournament:
  • Last CW title: 2005
  • Last CIS title: 2004
  • CIS ranking: N/A
  • CW ranking: #10
  • Key additions: M Shauntelle Hogg, M Jaylynn Moffatt
  • Key returnees: OH Lindsay Russell, OH Maura Hayes
  • Key departures: L Brooke Halvorsen, OH Sarah Moncks, OH Lindsey Doland, OH Andrea Price, M Courtney Dawson

CALGARY – Changes come and go to all CIS teams as players use up eligibility, graduate and move on, and the University of Calgary women’s volleyball team is going through just that.

With the loss of five starters, the tides will change for the squad made up almost entirely of first- and second-years, aside from three fourth-years that will definitely be expected to lead the troops.

“We have a lot of work to do this season to accomplish our goals in a short amount of time with an extremely young roster. We also expect to continue making positive steps forward in establishing our Dino culture,” said head coach Natalie Gurnsey.

The return of setter Jordhynn Guy will be a key aspect to Calgary’s success the season, along with fourth-years Lindsay Russell and Maura Hayes. As the most experienced players on the roster, both outside hitters are well-rounded players that bring diversity and power on offense. Hayes comes back after recovering from an injury last season while Russell was a regular starter by the end of the season last year.

The biggest changes will come in the middle. Shauntelle Hogg and Jaylynn Moffatt both begin their CIS careers this season with the Dinos and have already stepped into the CIS level of play. Hogg’s experience with the national team over the winter helped prepare her to make a statement in her rookie season. On the outside, all four hitters will be competing to do whatever it takes to help the Dinos be successful.

“With six of our thirteen players as rookies, they will all have an opportunity to make a difference on the floor this season. It will depend on what we need in the moment that will determine their contributions on the floor any given day.”

The Dinos open of their 2013-14 regular season campaign when they take on the Mount Royal Cougars in a home-and-away weekend series, Oct. 25-26. Calgary will take on Mount Royal at 6 p.m. down the road, before opening up their season at home the following day at 5 p.m.



  • 2012-13 conference record: 12-10 (6th)
  • 2013 playoffs: 0-2
  • 2013 CIS tournament:
  • Last CW title: 1971
  • Last CIS title: 2002
  • CIS ranking: #8
  • CW ranking: #3
  • Key addition: Brittany Habing
  • Key returnees: Taylor Pischke, Rachel Cockrell, Crystal Mulder, Jordana Mine, Mariel Garcia, Danika Picklyk
  • Key departure: Nicole Hall

WINNIPEG – The Manitoba Bisons are poised to reach the ranks of the elite teams in the country. They return almost a full contingent of starters from last season are in the middle of a cycle as there are no fifth year players on the 16 person roster for the 2013-14 Canada West season.

In addition, this will be the first full season for left side hitter Taylor Pischke as she joined the team during last season and comes off an extraordinary off-season where she honed her volleyball skills on the beach volleyball circuit by winning a NORCECA international event and also representing Canada at 2013 Summer Universiade along with teammate Canada West Rachel Cockrell who played in Russia for Team Canada.

Starters including Crystal Mulder, Jordana Mine, Mariel Garcia, Danika Picklyk and Erika Sandor all return and will be complemented by second year libero Caleigh Dobie and new setter and third year eligible Brittany Habing.

One of the goals for the Bisons this season is to be in a position to host a conference playoff round (last time was in 2009-10 season) as the team believes it will be difficult but a realistic expectation to reach that goal.

For the Bisons to reach their lofty heights of the pre-season rankings, Manitoba must be more consistent than last year where a couple of matches could have been won and would have moved them higher in the conference standings.



  • 2012-13 conference record: 14-8 (5th)
  • 2013 playoffs: 2-2
  • 2013 CIS tournament:
  • Last CW title: N/A
  • Last CIS title: N/A
  • CIS ranking: N/A
  • CW ranking: #8
  • Key additions: Mikayla Fritzke, Shelby Lausen, Nicole Smith
  • Key returnees: Julia Pasieka, Mackenzie Allen, Carolyn O’Dwyer
  • Key departures: Olivia Grecu, Breanna Estabrook

CALGARY – Last season the Cougars made an impressive run in their debut season in Canada West. After finishing fifth during the regular season, they made captured fourth place at the Canada West tournament showing all the teams in the league that they are a force to be reckoned with. This year’s version of the squad will be even stronger as some important recruits will look to help the Cougars reach the next level.

Returning this season is Julia Pasieka, team MVP over the last two seasons and the Cougar’s undoubted leader on and off the court. On Pasieka’s side will be sophomore Carolyn O’Dwyer. O’Dwyer had an outstanding rookie campaign last season and was rewarded with a trip to the Canada Games this past summer where she took home a gold medal with team Alberta. Feeding Pasieka and O’Dwyer the ball will be fifth year setter Mackenzie Allen who will look to end her career at Mount Royal with some hardware.

One of the top additions to the Cougars this season will be Shelby Lausen who transferred to Mount Royal this season from the NCAA. Mikayla Fritzke and Nicole Smith have also been brought on to help spread out the attack.

After last year’s finish and this seasons additions the Cougars will be a favourite to make the playoffs and potentially medal at the Canada West Championships. They have to find some more consistent play against the top ranked teams and make sure they take care of business against the teams beneath them in the standings.



  • 2012-13 conference record: 5-17 (10th, missed playoffs)
  • Last CW title: N/A
  • Last CIS title: N/A
  • CIS ranking: N/A
  • CW ranking: #9
  • Key additions: Camila Carvalho, Tiaunna Ross, Leah Shevkenek
  • Key returnees: Desiree Ates, Tori Glynn, Megan Semeniuk, Michelle Sweeting, Chelsea Ziolkowski
  • Key departures: Trisha Dobson, Meagan Lane

REGINA – Already assured of its fourth CIS championship berth in program history as tournament host, the University of Regina’s women’s volleyball team hopes to ride the momentum of a successful non-conference schedule into Canada West play.

The Cougars went 8-6 in their 14 non-conference matches and won six of their 10 matches against Canada West opposition. Entering her 12th season as the U of R’s bench boss, head coach Melanie Sanford feels that her team has shown significant progress already this season as the conference schedule begins this weekend at Brandon.

Sanford will look to setter Leah Shevkenek (Calgary, Alta. / William Aberhart HS) to control the team’s offence despite being in her first season of CIS eligibility. Shevkenek’s weapons on the outside include returners Desiree Ates, Tori Glynn, and Chelsa Ziolkowski, while Sanford expects Shelby Hack – now in her second year with the Cougars – to play an even larger role next season after appearing in 20 of 22 matches as a rookie.

Already fourth on the school’s all-time blocks list with two full years remaining in a Cougar uniform, Michelle Sweeting hit for team-high .268 percentage, finished among the conference’s leaders in service aces, and will again solidify the middle for the U of R. Sweeting will be joined at middle by Molly Wade-Cummings, who was with the team last year but didn’t see any floor time for the Cougars during the Canada West schedule.

The lone player on the U of R’s roster in her fifth year of eligibility, libero Megan Semeniuk is also the only player left from the 2009-10 team that qualified for the CIS Championship in Edmonton.



  • 2012-13 conference record: 3-19 (11th, missed playoffs)
  • Last CW title: 1992
  • Last CIS title: 1981
  • CIS ranking: N/A
  • CW ranking: #11
  • Key additions: Julia Kryzan, Emmalyn Copping, Jenelle Sokoloski
  • Key returnees: Jina Barker, Anne Hanbidge, Candace Hueser, Kayla Tycholiz
  • Key departure: Carmen Dubnick

SASKATOON – Returning five starters from last season, the University of Saskatchewan Huskie women’s volleyball team looks to compete for a playoff spot in the 2013-14 Canada West season.

Entering his third season as head coach of the Huskies, Jason Grieve is preparing the team to be a difficult matchup all season in the perennially tough Canada West conference in which six teams are ranked in the CIS Top 10 to open season.

In 2013-14, Saskatchewan’s focus will be on playing an up-tempo and skilled game.

Captain and outside hitter Candace Hueser, as well as middle blocker Kayla Tycholiz, will be looked at to lead the team offensively. The fifth-year Hueser has led the Huskies in kills in her four CIS seasons including 2012-13 when she tallied 171. She also recorded 194 points and 69 digs during an injury-riddled season. Tycholiz has been a consistent force in her two seasons with the Huskies starting 42 consecutive matches. The third-year middle led the team in points last season with 203. She recorded 163 kills and added 46 blocks last season.

Third-year players, and returning starters, Jina Barker and Anne Hanbidge will also be counted on to add to the team’s skill and competitiveness. In 2012-13, Barker started all 22 matches at setter for the Huskies. Hanbidge enhances the team’s defensive play and will be looked upon to provide more offense this season.

Joining the team for 2013-14 are a pair of Medicine Hat College transfers in middle blocker Julia Kryzan and outside hitter Emmalyn Copping. Both players have added skill and experience to the team in their respective roles. Local products Mackenzie Pek and Jenelle Sokoloski, both Holy Cross graduates, have also bolstered the team with skill and competitive drive.

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



  • 2012-13 conference record: 0-22 (1th, missed playoffs)
  • Last CW title: N/A
  • Last CIS title: N/A
  • CIS ranking: N/A
  • CW ranking: #12
  • Key additions: Caitlin Lomas (middle), Katarina Legutky (outside hitter)
  • Key returnees: Morgan Kolasa (outside hitter), Brianne Rauch (outside hitter)
  • Key departures: none

KAMLOOPS, BC – The best two words to describe the 2013-14 edition of the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack women’s volleyball team could be “youthful” and “enthusiastic”.

Head coach Keith Lundgren and assistant coach Hayley Hills have put together a squad who might lack Canada West match experience, but they have all the tools to be ‘quick’ studies and the improvement curve will be dramatic as the season wears on.

After missing the entire 2012-13 season with injuries: outside hitter Brianne Rauch and middle Morgan Kolasa are poised to lead the youthful WolfPack squad. Rauch will be the team captain this season.

Joining them will be Carly Nelson who has moved to a new position in the middle in training camp but should be a solid force out on the court.

The WolfPack have a number of returning second year players who will only get better with experience this year. Setter Katie Woo (Surrey, BC) has shown she has the potential to be one of the best in the Canada West for years to come.

Other players entering their second year with the club and a poised to make more of an impact with the team are Julia Niemczewska, Kristen Giesbrecht (middle), and Robyn Smith.

Lundgren has brought in some experience with former UNB player Katarina Legutky (outside hitter) and Ashleigh White (outside hitter). White played in the PACWEST last season for the College of the Rockies in Cranbrook, BC.

He also recruited highly touted Kaitlin Lomas (middle), Gabby Fortin and Tori Taneda (setter) and added defensive specialist Charise Coutu.



  • 2012-13 conference record: 19-3 (2nd)
  • 2013 playoffs: 3-1 (silver)
  • 2013 CIS tournament: 2-1 (bronze)
  • Last CW title: N/A
  • Last CIS title: N/A
  • CIS ranking: #2
  • CW ranking: #2
  • Key additions: M Katelyn Devaney, S Nikki Cornwall, OH Rowyn Neufeld
  • Key returnees: M Alicia Perrin, OH Royal Richardson, OH Sophie Carpentier, L Kristen Moncks
  • Key departures: S Kelci French, RS Amy Ott, M Nicole Bazin, OH Amber Brown

LANGLEY, BC – When the dust settled last year, the Trinity Western women’s volleyball team could celebrate a CIS bronze medal for the second time in three years. However, the reality of once again falling short of the national championship final still stung. For the better part of the last decade, the Spartans have no doubt been amongst the top teams in Canada, but even so, they have yet to play for a CIS title. This year, the Spartans have sights on making school history and are hungrier than ever.

While the team will certainly feel the effects of losing key players like setter Kelci French, right side Amy Ott and middle Nicole Bazin, the Spartans, who were ranked No. 2 in the CIS preseason poll, are still a relatively veteran side and one buoyed by optimism that this year could be the year they finally take that last step.

As has been the case for the past two years, much of what the Spartans do this season will filter through Canada West First Team All-Star Alicia Perrin (Creston, B.C.). The Spartans have been experimenting with the 6-foot-2 middle on the right side in the preseason, but no matter where she finds herself on the court, Perrin will be a focal point for both TWU’s attack and block.

While the Spartans have suffered a number of early season injuries, when healthy, TWU will rely on the likes of Royal Richardson (Rocky Mountain House, Alta.), Sophie Carpentier (Ottawa) and Carly Hamilton (Calgary) to power a strong left side attack.

In the middle, beyond Perrin, who averaged 1.31 blocks per set last year (2nd in Canada West) and had a .336 attacking percentage (3rd in CW), the Spartan will look to Casie Gano (Sundre, Alta.) and likely first-year Katie Devaney (Port Coquitlam, B.C.) to be key contributors right from opening night.

At the setting position, the Spartans will turn to fourth-year Lauren Moncks (Standard, Alta.). Moncks has played the role of back-up for three years – last year behind national team setter Kelci French, who is now playing professionally in Cyprus – but now she finally gets the reins to the carriage. How she runs the Spartans offence will largely dictate the height of TWU’s success.

With Moncks on the floor setting full-time, the Spartans will have the twin sister combination of Lauren and libero Kristen Moncks (Standard) starting together for the first time since their high school days. After winning Canada West Libero of the Year last season, Moncks will be a steadying influence for TWU.



  • 2012-13 conference record: 9-13 (8th, missed playoffs)
  • Last CW title: N/A
  • Last CIS title: 1993
  • CIS ranking: #9
  • CW ranking: #7
  • Key additions: Natasha Rupa, Aaliyah Masepela, Stephanie Hunt, Chloe Orteza
  • Key returnees: Ozana Nikolic, Carleen Kruschel, Alicia Perry, Ellina Domnidou, Hailey Buhler
  • Key departure: Sarah Lynch

WINNIPEG – The Winnipeg Wesmen have the privilege of returning the entire starting lineup from last season. A year older and more experienced should translate into great performance and higher expectations.

With Hailey Buhler, Chelsea Jones and Alyssa Kidd now having a year of experience under their belt they are showing signs of growth and improvement. They know the pressure of playing at the university level and are more capable of handling the responsibility that comes with the role.

Elina Domnidou, Tia Boroski and Ozana Nikolic all in their 3rd year are playing significant roles on the floor and in the team room. Leading by example and carrying the expectation to perform consistently day in and day out.

Carleen Kruschel and Alicia Perry the team captains and fifth year veterans round out the starting lineup. Both play key roles on the floor but more importantly are mentoring their younger team mates to carry forth the essence of leadership critical to a team’s journey and success.

Tamika Bazin, Hope Schneider, Ashley Penner return stronger and improved. The addition of rookies Natasha Rupa, Aaliyah Masepela, Stephanie Hunt and Chloe Orteza have provided depth, strength and potential for this season and beyond.


Canada West Annual Publication: www.azbycx1928.com/cw78hjfdbje/ 

David Bandla, Communications

Canada West Universities Athletic Association

780-266-9378 (WEST)

canadawest.org / canadawest.tv

@cwuaa on Twitter