Mustangs have sights set on an OUA title

Young roster, veterans looking to gel quickly

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Western women's volleyball

Jonas Hrebeniuk

Western’s women’s volleyball team has an Ontario University Athletics title square in its sights. Anything less than OUA gold will disappoint the perennial contenders.

“Our expectations are the same as every other year " winning the Ontario championships,” head coach Dean Lowrie said. “We are one of few teams that can always say that’s achievable.”

“Our ultimate goal is definitely to win an OUA championship,” said Caroline Descours, a middle with four years experience on the team.

“Despite having a young team this year, I think we have a good shot at winning it.”

The ’Stangs will have to reach their goal with six new players in the lineup.

“I think after losing some key players from last year, we may lack some of the experience our team is used to having,” Descours said. “But we’ve got some great new players on the team who are ready to work hard to fill those spots.”

Leah Towell, a first-year player, may be new to Western, but not to volleyball.

Towell played four years at the University of Toronto before coming to Western for law school and joining the Mustangs.

“Leah has tons of character " she’s an instant leader on the court,” Lowrie said.

“Western’s pretty different from UofT in terms of the school and the team, but I really like it. It’s working out really well for me this year,” Towell said. She agreed anything less than OUA gold would be disappointing this year.

Due to player turnover, team chemistry is a focal point for the team early in the season.

“We’ve turned over a number of kids,” Lowrie explained. “It takes time to gel, to get new athletes to understand my style.”

“I’m not technically a first year but there is a lot of new people, it does take a few months to get your team chemistry there,” Towell said.

Lowrie said it is increasingly hard to secure gold in a competitive OUA.

“Every year there is more and more parity,” he said. “Lots of things can happen. Now it’s all about having the best team in the last two weeks and in the playoffs.”

“It’s a competitive league,” Descours said. “There are a number of teams that could potentially finish on top.

“Ottawa will be our main rival for sure. They beat us in the semis by two points in the fifth set. So there’s big motivation to win against them.

“Though overall there is no team we can take lightly.”

The team followed an off-season training schedule prepared by the team strength training coach that involved weights, cardio, speed and jump training.

“Many of our girls play beach volleyball through the summer, which is a great way to stay fit, competitive and improve ball control,” Descours said.

Lowrie said the off-season work prevents injuries during the regular season.

“It’s really a 12-month season,” he said.

According to Lowrie, practice goes a long way to hone toughness in a mentally strenuous game.

“We try to develop competitiveness in our practices as much as possible,” he explained, adding, “We try to keep score on almost everything so that people get used to playing for points, not just six on six but in one on one situations as well.”

Descours discussed getting off to a strong start this season.

“Our game schedule is pretty heavy right from the start. Not only in terms of number of games, but also in terms of the importance of a lot of these matches.”

Western starts the season with road games at the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University this weekend.

“I’d say it’s a pretty big weekend,” Towell said. “We’ve seen both of these teams already so we know what to expect, we just have to play our game.”

“We’ve been practising daily since the start of the school year and have played in a couple of exhibition tournaments,” Descours said.

“I’m confident we’re ready.”

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