Volume 92, Issue 38
Wednesday, November 11, 1998
Western's one-two knock-out punch
By Carlos DiPonio
How quickly uncertainty turns into optimism. The Western women's volleyball team has greatly exceeded even its own expectations this far in Ontario University Athletics match play.
The women have posted a 3-0 regular season record after an excellent preseason tournament and head coach Dean Lowrie said, although it is still very early in the season, the team has developed into a bona fide OUA championship contender.
"This year has been extremely exciting so far," Lowrie said. "We've developed from a rebuilding team to one that has a great chance to lay serious claim to a second consecutive provincial championship. We're way ahead of where we though we would be at this point."
Two major reasons for the team's great strides so far have been the tag team play of senior co-captain Marnie Simpson and rookie setter Rachel Loewen.
Simpson, a perennial OUA all-star and last season's league most valuable player, has assumed the leadership role on a team which includes six first-year players. She said she is astounded at the team's early success.
"The team is so much better than I first imagined it to be," Simpson said. "After losing four starters from last year and having a rather inexperienced rookie crop, we labelled this a transition year. Yet, somehow everyone has performed incredibly and now it looks like we're the team to beat again."
Loewen, a Winnipeg-born volleyball prodigy, attributes a fair amount of the team's success to Simpson's reliability on and off the court.
"Marnie had been the consummate team leader," she said. "She is always right there to offer encouragement when someone is down and her dependable play inspires the team to perform better."
Although Simpson is generally considered the team's marquee player, she is quick to point out the team is immersed in talent. She had especially kind words for Loewen's early performance.
"Rachel may only be in her first year of university competition but she gives no indication of it in competition," Simpson said. "She has done a great job adjusting and her setting has been phenomenal. She has done an unbelievable job of running our team."
Lowrie pointed out although Loewen is in first year, she has played a ton of volleyball at other levels of competition since the age of five. A large part of her early exposure to the game was the result of her father, who is a Canada Games coach.
"Rachel is definitely not new to this game," Lowrie said. "The university game is big on speed and pace and I feel that this is where Rachel had made her biggest adjustment. Sometimes when watching her play, it is hard to believe she is only 18."
With Simpson and Loewen leading a team of up-start athletes, the squad will gear up to inflict more damage on Friday against Guelph at Alumni Hall at 6 p.m..
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