SFU volleyball heads into the 2016 season with high expectations. That’s because this year, there are 12 players returning from a team that finished fifth in the GNAC conference last season.
“I think it’s always helpful when you return 12 players,” head coach Gina Schmidt told The Peak. “So far I think it’s probably the highest level we’ve been playing at this point in the season. I’ve been happy with things so far.”
The team has brought in three new players this season: Kirsten Pinkney and Betsie de Beer join as freshmen, while Angelica Kilberg joins from the University of Manitoba.
“It’s been a pretty smooth transition in terms of getting the freshmen involved,” said Schmidt. “We have one transfer who is already use[d] to the university setting, so this stuff isn’t new for her. So really, just two players that are new to university, and they have the opportunity to meet our team in the recruiting process. So there wasn’t really anybody coming in that didn’t know each other before.
“There’s always a bit of a jump from high school in the university level when it comes to the speed of the game, but really when you look at our gym, it would be hard to pick out who the first years are.”
Hopes for the upcoming season are high in part due to how the last one ended. After enduring some tough losses early on, the team rallied to win six of their final seven games, something Schmidt said the team hopes to carry over come the start of this season.
“We definitely talked about that in our spring season,” said Schmidt, on the end of last season. “Our spring season is essentially our preseason for this year, and I think we had a very good spring. The girls worked hard to improve on the things that kept us from being in the top three. Where that gap was, we really tried to address some of those things, and I think it was really building off a good end of the season.”
The Clan will not be afforded time to ease themselves into the start of this season, though. First off is a tough non-conference schedule which sees them play a total of eight games over the span of five different days. After that, they have three days to get ready for Western Washington at home, a team that last season were the West Region champions and went all the way to the national semifinals. However, Schmidt insists her team will be motivated for the task.
“It’s a little bit helpful that you’re playing Western, only because when you’re playing the team picked to finish first in the conference, it doesn’t take much to get the team motivated to play,” she explained. “It’s always exciting to play a good team and a team that’s favoured to win, so I think [that] will help us, even if we’re tired from the road trip. The opportunity to play a good team finally in front of our own fans, I think will help us get over any fatigue and excited to play.”
You can catch the game against Western Washington September 14 in the West Gym at 7 p.m.