Thistle confident MUN won’t abandon women’s program

John
John Browne
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Memorial Sea-Hawks women’s volleyball coach Bill Thistle said he isn’t worried the sport will go the way of the program at St. Francis Xavier University.
St. Francis announced the discontinuation of its women’s varsity volleyball program in June.

Bill Thistle didn’t plan on returning to coach MUN’s women’s volleyball team this season, but with the a review of the school’s varsity sports due later this year, he decided to stick around while waiting to see what comes of the recommendations.


Memorial Sea-Hawks women’s volleyball coach Bill Thistle said he isn’t worried the sport will go the way of the program at St. Francis Xavier University.

St. Francis announced the discontinuation of its women’s varsity volleyball program in June.

“I’m not concerned that MUN will drop women’s volleyball for a number of reasons,” said Thistle.

“First, it’s the largest sport by participation in our high schools and junior highs, and is growing by leaps and bounds.

“Secondly,” he said, “it’s a sport that we can compete if given the right resources. We have competed the last two years, making the playoffs and losing in close matches in the semifinals. Last year, we were hurt by injuries yet still competed right to the end.”

A portion of the St. Francis Xavier release states: “Eliminating the volleyball program will help the athletics and recreation department meet budget reduction targets, while having the least impact on the number of student athletes.”

The decision to discontinue women’s volleyball leaves St. Francis with six varsity women’s teams and six men’s teams.

Memorial has about 175 male and female student athletes competing is six Atlantic University Sport (AUS) varsity sports, including basketball, volleyball, soccer, cross-country running, wrestling and swimming.

The university has completed a task force that will form the development of varsity sports from 2013 to 2020.

The Task Force on Competitive Sports, chaired by Dr. Mary Bluechardt, Memorial’s vice-president (Grenfell Campus), held its initial meeting in March with the final one at Marine Institute in May.

The review is expected to be released before the year is over, but it is not if or known when the recommendations will be implemented.

Thistle said he and assistant coach Karen Murphy were frustrated at the end of the year, “because we couldn’t give the athletes the same experience as the other teams were given by their full-time coaches.”

Thistle said he initially informed Memorial’s director of athletics, Michelle Healey, he wouldn’t be back for his fourth season at the helm of the Lady Hawks because he felt MUN needed a full-time coach.

He has since agreed to return at least until the review and its recommendations, “can work through the executive level of the university.”

Thistle said he has confidence Memorial will act on the recommendations.

While Thistle wouldn’t divulge the contents of the review, he said it is a “very positive” report.

“I feel and sense a real change in athletics at Memorial,” he added.

For example, Thistle said Memorial University president Gary Kachanoski, in partnership with The Works, has agreed to cost share an athletic scholarship program at Memorial which is a first for the school.

Meanwhile, in terms of his team this season, Thistle said he has six new athletes training with the Sea-Hawks and he’s optimistic Memorial will compete for the AUS title.

“We don’t have last year’s depth, but I believe our core is stronger. We have to find leadership, develop chemistry and learn to compete over the next few weeks.”

He promised this year’s team will surprise teams in the AUS.

 

jbrowne@thetelegram.com

 

 

Organizations: Sea-Hawks, Competitive Sports, Marine Institute The Works

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  • Paul
    September 14, 2013 - 20:39

    The women's program has always represented the university well. If there is a need to make cuts then look no further than men's volleyball. Seriously, a 3 team league and Memorial can't even sniff at a top 2 position.