By: Ian McAlpine
“Once you’ve been at the top you always want to get back there,” said Everton Senior, head coach of the Algonquin Thunder women’s volleyball team.
After dominating the East Region for most of the 2000s the Thunder started fresh in 2010 and have been slowly climbing their way back up the ranks since.
Last year the Thunder lost in the quarterfinals after finishing with a 16-4 regular season record and second place finish in the East Region.
“I think we will be just as strong, if not a little stronger than last year,” said Senior.
This year they’ll be looking to improve on that fifth-place finish.
The Thunder only have three returning players from last year’s squad but are joined by experienced athletes from other post-secondary schools and club teams.
Among the returning players are last year’s East Region Second Team all-stars Jori Armishaw (outside) and Bree Wheeler (middle).
“Our goal is to play each match one point at a time,” said Armishaw. “We want to compete in every match, giving ourselves the opportunity to be successful.”
Early practice reports show positive signs.
“For the first time in a long time our women’s team is going to be a very strong passing team,” said Wheeler. “Instead of just sticking the main three [passers] in we can rely on the whole team to pass.”
Setting was a serious concern coming into this season. After losing their setter from last year and having none show up at tryouts, the coaching staff had some decisions to make. Former outside hitters Jena Armishaw and Katie Both have taken on the huge setting responsibility.
“They’re very good volleyball players so that makes a world of difference,” said Senior. “They’ve got good hands and good knowledge of the game so that’s what you look for in a setter. I’m confident in both of them.”
Another challenge this year is having so many first-year players who have to adapt to so many changes at once.
“You’re trying to manage school and do well in your first year and adjust to being five hours away from home and taking on the role of varsity is a lot,” said first-year outside hitter Tess Peterson.
For Wheeler and Jori Armishaw, in what will be their final year, this season means a lot.
“As a competitive athlete I want to win but either way this will be a year that I will remember in a positive way,” said Armishaw.
“I want to walk into the banquet at provincials and people go, ‘Oh shit, that’s the Thunder team!’ ” said Wheeler.
The women have a schedule that will see them play 20 regular season games before hopefully traveling to Trent University in February for the provincial championships.
Along the way they’d like to have as much fan support out to home games as possible.
“You never know what you’re going to get with women’s volleyball,” said Senior. “It can be the most exciting thing to watch at times.”
The women will begin their season on Nov. 2 against the S.S. Fleming Knights. The home opener is set for Nov. 16 against the Durham Lords.