The upstart Blues women’s volleyball team is looking to shock the competition at PACWEST provincials
Tia Kutschera Fox // Opinions Editor
As the Capilano University Blues women’s volleyball team’s season comes to an end, they’re looking optimistic heading into the Pacific Western Athletic Association(PACWEST) playoffs. “We’re a very well-balanced team. When you look at the overall team stats I think we’re – I know a week ago we were leading out of seven stats, we were leading six of them,” explained head coach Cal Wohlford. Going into the playoffs ranked number for in the conference, the team will begin their playoff run in the quarterfinals.
Finishing in fourth place is an impressive accomplishment for the team considering the changes they underwent this past off-season. Last year’s squad had four fifth-year players, while this year’s most experienced players are captains Tyneille Neufeld and Megan Koven, as well as middle Zoe Mydansky, were all in their third year of eligibility. With all the fresh faces, Wohlford’s been pleased with how this season has played out.
“It’s been pretty good, we’ve had ups and downs as we’re a fairly young team. Overall our first half was pretty good,” he said. “It ended where I thought we should be at and this back half we’ve been playing quite well.” Koven agreed with the coach. “I think we’ve been doing pretty well for having such a young team, a lot of people are learning a lot of new things or learning a lot of new positions this year.”
Two weekends ago they faced the Camosun Chargers, a team already out of the running for the playoffs. Wohlford warned the team Camosun could be harder than most. “That’s the most dangerous team you can play pretty much is the team that’s already out,” Koven explained. “Like Cal said, they have nothing to lose, they’re going to try things that they’ve probably been nervous or scared to try.”
The team went on to beat Camosun that weekend 3-1 and again 3-0.
While their co-captain, Tyneille Neufeld, has been on the bench for the team’s past eight games due to an ankle injury, other team members have been stepping up to make the difference. “I think Isabela Lima – she’s the other left side that I played with – she’s really stepped up as a strong leader on the court,” Neufeld said. “And our middles are really stepping up too,” she added. Koven, who plays the middle position, agreed. “I got to step up. A lot of the other girls like Isabela Lima, she’s stepping up a lot,” Koven said.
The team has multiple strategies they’re hoping will lead to success in provincials. “I think we play easier when we’re serving hard and when we’re passing well we get into a better rhythm. When we’re not passing so well we tend to force things a little too much and then things don’t roll,” Wohlford explained. The coach also noted that the team’s middles have found their stride toward the end of the season. “The biggest thing is just the desire to play, the passion,” he said.
Neufeld emphasized the importance of communication. “I know a few times it’s a completely quiet gym and everyone is just really tense and that’s when we start to make more mistakes,” she said. “I think Isabela is really good at just being that little fire on the court, her and Zoe Mydanski they’re both just like really loud. So, to have them keep being loud, and have everyone feed off that energy, that’s how we start talking that’s how we start communicating.”
Lima has seen the team coming together of late as they’ve been improving their on-court bonds. “I feel that it is connecting with each other. It has changed, I think that we’re way more connected now than we were in the beginning. That’s the way it goes even with a team that’s been playing for a long time together, the beginning of season is a little rusty and then we pick up along the way,” she said.
As they approach the quarterfinals, Wohlford expects the team will face the Columbia Bible College Bearcats and then Douglas College Royals in the semi-final match. They could also be facing the Vancouver Island University (VIU) Marniers, but with VIU’s record in the league, they are all hoping to go against Douglas. “VIU is just known for being really good so everyone kind of plays a little bit off. Whereas Douglas we kind of have this little rivalry so I think it just really brings up our game when we play them,” explained Neufeld.
Lima agreed, but also has a more personal reason for facing Douglas. “I have another Brazilian that plays in that team,” Lima said. “She’s my friend, I know her it’s just because we go against each other and it’s super fun and super competitive. I don’t know, it’s just fun,” she added. However, after dropping a pair of games to the Royals this past weekend, the Blues will need to refocus to find success against the Royals, if they wind up facing one another in the tournament. Neufeld’s injury has prevented her from playing very much this semester, but there is good news. “I’m excited to be back, I should be back by provincials for sure,” she said. The whole team is excited and gearing towards provincials. In regard to how they hope to place in provincials, Lima put it well. “You know you’re going for the win always. Hoping to play hard and play our best. That’s always in my mind, it doesn’t matter what happens, just play the best we can, and fight for every point.”
The PACWEST Volleyball playoffs will be taking place from Feb. 22 to 24 at the University of the Fraser Valley.