Departing seniors have built a sustainable culture of success and professionalism with Blues
With the impending departures of fifth-year co-captains Sarah Hughes and Kira Sutcliffe, as well as fifth-years Kolby Richter and Kelsi Boroevich, questions arise about the future of the Capilano Blues women’s volleyball team.
The past few years have seen the Blues flourish as one of the most consistent units of the Pacific Western Athletic Association (PACWEST) conference, winning three straight bronze medals, a silver medal in the 2013-2014 season and a total of five podium finishes in the last six years. The “Blues family” as the players affectionally refer to it, has been a sustained culture, built from the bonds that the student-athlete community creates.
At the start of the 2016-2017 athletic calendar, head coach Cal Wohlford told the Capilano Courier that having four fifth-year players is a near unprecedented scenario in PACWEST play. Although the Blues ultimately fell short of the provincial gold and their national hopes, the work that the seniors have done throughout their careers have the Blues set to continue competing for that elusive gold medal.
One of the players set take on a greater leadership role is second year left side Tyneille Neufeld. The versatile player quickly integrated herself to the Blues rotation and finished the season as one of the team’s best in digs, kills and hitting percentage (.423) – a number that had her as the seventh most accurate hitter in the entire Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA). Neufeld’s versatility stems for her experience with the libero position, a role she primarily played during her time with the Thompson Rivers University Wolfpack.
Throughout the season, Neufeld exhibited her excellence both as an attacker and as a defensive player, culminating in a selection to the PACWEST Second-Team All Star. “I would just like to say that I am flattered to receive this recognition, being a new player to the league,” she said. But despite her undeniable individual efforts, Neufeld insists directing credit towards the people that surround her. “I couldn’t have done it without the support from my team, coaches, and family. She was also key to the Blues’ bronze medal clinching victory over the College of the Rockies Avalanche, being named Player of the Match after the contest.
Another standout player from this season was rookie Anika Kolybaba. The first-year right side earned herself a spot on the PACWEST All-Rookie Team for her contributions on the defensive end, and the rapid growth she made as an offensive threat. “I did not expect to get this at all, just because as a first year coming in it’s not the easiest,” she said. “You basically feel like you’re learning volleyball again because it’s so different.”
Like Neufeld, Kolybaba was also overwhelmingly grateful for the support that her team has given her in her first year as a Capilano Blue. “[The Blues] were the biggest supporters of making me a better player because they know what you can do even if you don’t know it yourself,” she said. “Overall I’m so grateful for getting [All-Rookie Team] because it means I’m doing something right.”
Neufeld and Kolybaba are just two members of the Blues’ exciting building blocks. Fourth year libero Abigail O’Neil is poised to take on a greater leadership role, both on and off the court. Although she was hampered by a late-season ankle injury, third year middle Danae Shephard is also among key foundational players moving forward. Although she missed a huge chunk of the season due to injury, second year middle Keeley Bell found herself back in rotation for the playoffs, and her presence will be integral for the Blues’ return next season. Finally, second year outside hitter Meghan Koven, who herself earned a spot on the All-Rookie Team last year, was among the team’s clutch performers these past playoffs, and her continued development stands as one of the most exciting aspects of the Blues’ future.
The Capilano Blues women’s volleyball team may be saying goodbye to four cherished seniors, but the strong existing culture of family with the team ensures that they won’t be saying goodbye to their place as one of the PACWEST’s best teams any time soon.
Campus Life Editor
Community Relations Manager
Arts and Culture Editor