Despite late season struggles and injuries, veteran March confident team can rise to the occasion
Even with a spate of injuries affecting some of his best players and having to start three rookies, MUN women’s volleyball coach Bill Thistle (above) believes his squad still has a chance to emerge as champs at this weekend’s Atlantic University Sport conference championships at the MUN Field House. MUN opens with a quarter-final match against the University of Moncton Blue Eagles Friday at 8 p.m. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
Memorial Sea-Hawks veteran Sam March admitted her team has underachieved this season — so far.
The fourth-year left aside from Bay Roberts said Wednesday, “I don’t feel like we’ve played up to our potential. We were unstoppable in pre-season but, for some reason, we haven’t clicked (during the regular season).”
MUN takes a 5-11 record into the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) women’s volleyball quarter-finals Friday night against the 8-10 University of Moncton Blue Eagles at the Field House.
However, March said despite the team’s record during the season, she feels confident the players can pull it all together to make a successful run in the post season.
“One game at a time, for sure,” she said.
March, who has been playing with a torn meniscus in her left knee, said she’s nowhere near 100 per cent, but she can play through the pain.
She explained that while it doesn’t bother her much when she’s concentrating on the game, she admits to playing in pain and it has affected her mobility.
“I’m not jumping as high or moving as quickly as I normally would,” she noted.
“It’s frustrating, but some days are better than others.”
The versatile March, who can play several positions, said she’ll have the knee “scoped” when the season is over. Right now, her focus is on this weekend.
She said all of the players are looking forward to playing in an AUS championship at home for a change.
“Especially Chantel Jones,” March said of the team’s fifth-year player.
March said it isn’t often MUN volleyball gets so much attention.
“This is a significant tournament for volleyball,” she noted. “To get this sort of recognition is a big deal.”
March went on to say the Sea-Hawks are looking forward to the local support and that the players don’t mind the pressure of having to win at home
“Actually, I like playing under pressure,” she said.
In the meantime, when MUN second-year Krista Hogan picked up an ankle injury at practice earlier this week, all coach Bill Thistle could do was sigh and reply: “One of those years.”
The team is already dealing with injuries to March and first-year Gillian Rickets.
While March will play this weekend, the coach said he isn’t sure about Ricketts.
“We’re hopeful Gillian will be around, but we’re not 100 per cent,” he said.
Meanwhile, Thistle said Hogan is walking with a bad limp and it’s “highly unlikely” she’ll play this weekend, although he said there is “some hope” because the injury is to her an ankle and not her knee.
Despite the injuries and the fact the team will probably start three rookies, Thistle still believes his team has the depth to win three straight games on the way to the title.
“You only need eight or nine players to win this,” he said.
Still, he admitted having to play three first-year players for multiple minutes, is going to be tough. “It’s hard on for first year players to be consistent,” he said.
Sixth-seed MUN plays its quarter-final match against third-seed Moncton at 8 o’clock Friday night, while the fourth-seed University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds play the fifth-seed St. Francis Xavier X-Women at 6 p.m. The first-place Dalhousie Tigers and second-place Saint Mary’s Huskies have the bye to the semifinal round.
“Moncton beat us twice at their home (3-0, 3-1), so it will not be an easy match,” said Thistle.
“They don’t make a lot of mistakes. We make a lot of mistakes, but if we clean them up, and don’t give up any unforced errors, we become a much tougher team.
“If we can get healthy, we will do very well this week. I’m very optimistic,” said Thistle.
The team’s best matches this season, according to Thistle, were against University of New Brunswick, St. Francis and the Quebec teams during interlock series.
Thistle said it hasn’t been difficult keeping up the team’s spirit despite its losing record this season.
So are the players confident they can go all the way under the circumstances?
“That’s a good question,” said Thistle.
“They are saying all the right things, because they really believe in themselves.
“You really don’t know until we come out and play. But if we can get that first win, we’ll be really dangerous. That’ll give us a lot of confidence,” he said.
Thistle said he’s not sure if a big home crowd will help or hurt his young team because of the pressure, but he would “like to think we can benefit from the support.”
For MUN to win the championship Thistle said, “We will need to block very well and get kills from our left and right side athletes. If we attack well we will be very successful.”
All matches of the 2013 Subway AUS women’s volleyball championship will be webcast at AUStv.ca.
The AUS champion will advance to the 2013 CIS women’s volleyball championship, Feb. 28-March 2, hosted by the University of Sherbrooke in Quebec.
The championship schedule is as follows (seeding in brackets, All games at the Field House):
6 p.m., Quarter-final No.1
UNB (4th) vs. St. Francis (5th)
8 p.m., Quarter-final No.2
Moncton (3rd) vs. Memorial (6th)
4:30 p.m., Semifinal No.1
Dalhousie (1st) vs. winner of QF No.1
6:30 p.m., Semifinal No.2
Saint Mary’s (2nd) vs. winner of QF No. 2
2 p.m., Championship Game
Memorial Sea-Hawks roster:
No.1. Chantel Jones, Thunder Bay, Ont.
No. 2. Samantha Jubinville-Mah, Victoria, B.C.
No. 3. Tiffany Cooper, Clarenville
No. 4. Angela Peddle, St. John’s
No. 5. Hayley Bremner, Calgary, Alta.
No. 6. Laura Carmanico, Stittsville, Ont.
No. 7. Lauren Miller, Oromocto, N.B.
No. 8. Krista Hogan, Kippens
No. 9. Adrienne Penney, St. John’s
No. 10. Sam March, Bay Roberts
No. 12. Jillian Lynch, St. John’s
No.13, Kayla Butler, Lower Sackville, N.S.
No. 14. Jill Snow, Bishop’s Falls
No. 15. Gillian Ricketts, St. John’s
No. 16. Emily Henneberry, Williamswood, N.S.