Volume 92, Issue 30

Wednesday, October 28, 1998

hot air


Western has no time for transition

©Dipesh Mistry/Gazette

By John Intini
Gazette Staff

The Western women's volleyball team are hoping size does matter this year in their quest to repeat as Ontario University Athletics West champions.

With four key athletes graduating from last year's undefeated OUA champions, most notably captain Lynn McDonald, head coach Dean Lowrie acknowledged there were some holes to fill on his club. However, based on some great pre-season play, the goals of the season have been drastically altered.

"We have yet to lose in competition this year to a team from Ontario," Lowrie said. "We are a very young team but by the early signs we may already be able to think about the next step, which is success at the national level."

The women found their way to the medal podium in the first three pre-season tournaments before finishing in a respectable fourth place in last weekend's York tourney.

Co-captain Marnie Simpson, the only senior player on a club filled with six rookies, felt although the youthfulness of the roster may point towards a team in transition, the Mustangs are undeserving of the rebuilding label.

"This could be coined a rebuilding year but we are not a rebuilding team," Simpson said. "This is the most talented team I have seen here, it is just raw talent right now.

"Notoriously we have been known as a defensive team and have been small by Canadian standards," she said, referring to the new direction of the taller team. "In terms of pure inches, we're a lot bigger this year which should put us in tough against some of the schools out West."

Included in the Mustang six-pack of rookies, is the team's new starting setter from Winnipeg, Rachel Loewen. According to Lowrie, Loewen has been a setter since she was eight years old and although young, has a great deal of competitive experience behind her. He added she has shown in pre-season play to be up for the pressure-filled role.

Guelph head coach, Linda Melnick, said although it is early, Western and Guelph will be one-two in the West. The only thing she thinks may hurt the Mustangs is having a rookie setter.

"It takes a little while to adjust to the game which may make it tough for their young setter," she said. "We have yet to play them this year, but based on what we have seen at tournaments, they have a strong, young program."

Simpson, who takes over the reigns as leader, said she will take a lot of what she learned from McDonald during her first couple of years with respect to attitude and leadership style.

"I model myself after Lynn," Simpson said. "If I can be half as good a captain and leader as she was, I think that team is destined for some very big things. Lynn led through her on-the-court play and I try to do the same thing."

According to Lowrie, the biggest threat to a Mustang repeat will be the Guelph Gryphons, who he picks to be the best in the West division based on their experience and high number of returning seniors.

The Mustangs will look to answer the battle cries of the Waterloo Warriors when they travel to Waterloo tonight for the season opener at 6 p.m..

To Contact The Sports Department: gazette.sports@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright © The Gazette 1998