Simpson is throwing
a block party
By Ryan Hickman
SHE'S BAD, SHE'S BAD, COME ON, YOU KNOW SHE'S BAD. Mustangs middle
Kyla Simpson may not do the moonwalk on the volleyball court, but
she's damn bad when she spanks the volleyball.
She lurks, waiting
along the net, crouched in a pouncing position, eyes darting around the
court, and just when you're ready to unload, she's there to smother any
Kyla Simpson of the Western Mustangs women's volleyball team has been
hovering around the net all season and had found herself in a tie for
the nation's lead in blocks per set (1.44/set) going into this past weekend's
match against the University of Waterloo.
Simpson, who stands at an imposing 6"2' in her middle position, is
playing her first season for the purple and white at Western. But university
volleyball is not something new for the Thunder Bay native.
Problems with the academic details of her program at Lakehead University
brought Simpson to London after two standout years on the court playing
in Lakehead's program. Last season at Western was strenuous for Simpson
because of a mandatory Canadian Interuniversity Sport policy regarding
athletes that transfer schools that limited her to practicing with the
Mustangs, with no opportunity to play in games.
"Last year she was in a holding pattern," said Western head
coach Dean Lowrie concerning his budding star's situation last season.
"It was a struggle for her because, without playing, she couldn't
transfer what was learned in practice to the court in a game situation."
Simpson took on a quasi-coaching position last year that allowed her to
travel with the team and develop a bond with her teammates heading into
Friday night's match against Waterloo was an easy 3-0 straight sets win
(25-13, 25-12, 25-22) and was also a special night, which honoured senior
anchors of the team, Jess Powell and Lyn Christensen. Seeing the two fifth-year
senior leaders appreciated was a point of reflection for Simpson.
"It's tough on seniors night, because that could have been my last
[game] if I hadn't transferred. For most people, it's the end of the line
after putting so much time into it," Simpson said.
Simpson's career, unlike most her age, is on the incline. She came out
of Thunder Bay Hammarskjold High School with relative obscurity, after
being cut in Grade 9 and 10 and not playing fully competitive volleyball
until Grade 11.
Simpson's size and athletic genes her father played basketball
while he was at Lakehead allowed her to step right into a starting
role at Lakehead in her first season. Even though she started for Lakehead
in her first two seasons, Simpson said she probably wouldn't have made
half of the other teams in the OUA in her first season. But her development
has accelerated faster than a jam packed 2 Dundas racing past a busy stop.
Her rise through the volleyball ranks hasn't stopped since. After her
second season with the Thunderwolves, she made the Canadian National "B"
team. She trained in Winnipeg during the summer at the National Volleyball
Simpson's ultimate goal is to play internationally on the Canadian National
team that competes at the Olympic level, but she is certainly preparing
for life beyond volleyball.
The reason for the transfer to Western was academic, not athletic, Simpson
said. She plans on going into veterinarian medicine after her biology
degree is completed and her run of volleyball stardom ends.
"I'm a big animal lover," Simpson said about her passion off
the v-ball court.
In fact, Kyla Simpson is not only the proud owner of the best blocking
stats in Canada, but also a small furry rat by the name of Abby.
"She gets into a little more trouble than I do," she said, when
asked if Abby's personality was like hers. "But she is curious and
adventurous and I'm definitely both of those."