Cougar’s Volleyball cools Okanagan heat in home opener

Nathan McCarville

The women got off to a good start, splitting their opening weekend 1-1

With the Rams season winding down, the Cougars are starting to get going, the latest being the women’s volleyball team. After going 16-8 in conference competition in 2018-2019, the Cougars have been just 1-11 in pre-season. The new look roster came into their home opener needing a big win and that’s just what they got. In two matches against UBC Okanagan on Oct. 18 and 19, they won their first 3-2 match and lost the second 0-3.

Like many of the Cougars teams, volleyball is in a transitional season. Last year, they finished their season with a playoff loss in the quarterfinals against powerhouse UBC Thunderbirds. From that roster, they graduate three fifth-year players, including libero and Cougars all time digs leader Taylor Ungar. They also lose Canada West all-star and Cougars female athlete of the year, Satomi Togawa. In the wake of these losses, returning fourth years Emma Matheson, Britt Davis, and Kristin Greve are stepping into the leadership roles. The veterans were huge for them in their season opening win. Davis led the team in kills with 13, while Matheson blocked 9 UBC drives. Third-year libero Sierra Parris-Kruger was also instrumental, contributing 23 digs for the home team.

The Cougars faltered a little bit on Saturday, losing three sets to zero against the visiting Heat. Jade Bussard lifted her team to victory with 11 kills and 16.5 points. In the defeat, Davis and Matheson once again led the Cougars, with Davis pitching in 10 points for the U of R. For 2018 Canada West coach of the year, Melanie Sanford, the game was a step in the right direction for her fresh roster.

“I think the weekend showed us the areas where we have improved as a team and also areas that we need to continue to work on.  Our match results on Friday showed us what we are capable of as a team and this is very positive.”

One area the Cougars will look to improve is in their consistency. In their victories, they won 25-18, 25-19, and 17-15 while their losses came 14-25 and 19-25. Their next three losses also came with big differentials, of 10, 9, and 6 respectively. They have a tendency to win and lose in sweeping fashion. If they can keep their highs high and minimize the low sets, they will be able to continue to compete. For Coach Sanford, maintaining the consistent play they showed in their first match will be pivotal to the team’s success.

“We need to work on maintaining that performance to get the results we want and so this is an area of focus for our team.”

The next test for Volleyball will come in Edmonton against the MacEwan Griffons. The Griffons are currently 0-2 and this will be the first time the teams meet in 2019. The Cougars will look to stay tough and get their first 2-0 weekend of the season in their next action.

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