Memorial plays Cape Breton in first round of conference playoff tournament
The Memorial Sea-Hawks are seeded fourth heading into the Atlantic University women's volleyball championship tournament, beginning Friday in Antigonish, N.S. Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram
Melissa Oates has yet to see her team at its best.
But that's OK with Memorial's women's volleyball coach.
"That's a good thing heading into the playoffs because we haven't peaked yet and we've got a strong chance of peaking (there)," said Oates.
The Sea-Hawks (11-9) finished fourth overall in the Atlantic universities standings with an 11-9 record, earning them a berth in the AUS championship tournament at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S.
Memorial takes on the fifth-place Cape Breton University Capers in Friday's quarter-final round.
The Lady-Hawks' season got off to a great start, going undefeated in their first six matches. By the middle of January, the Sea-Hawks held down first place with a 9-1 record.
Then came the interlocking tournament with Quebec-based schools and four consecutive losses to Laval, Montreal, McGill, and Sherbrooke.
MUN then closed out its AUS regular season, winning two and losing four of its remaining matches.
Oates insists the lack of success in the interlocking tourney had no effect on the team's performance.
"They knew going in it was going to be a challenge and a struggle," she said, adding that the task was made that much harder by the loss of fifth-year player Sarah Chalker to an ankle injury in the first interlocking game
"So we had some fairly big shoes to fill that weekend, and for what I saw that weekend, we played strong, we played well, we just didn't get the outcome. There was no change of mood, no change of chemistry, none of that on the floor."
The team's two most recent losses came at the hands of the AUS second seed, the University of Moncton. Oates contends it wasn't for a lack of effort from her players, they just couldn't score.
The coach said they've already addressed the problem by trying to get back to a more aggressive style of play by forcing the middle and being more selective in who they are targeting when serving.
As for MUN's individual players, Oates suggests Sarah Chalker and Krista Parsons have been bright spots all season, while Megan Conroy has provided leadership both on and off the court. She's also been impressed with the defensive play of libero Nicole Jolliffe. But Oates doesn't believe there is any particular player who needs to step up her game heading into the playoffs.
"Every individual on this team needs to play for themselves just as much as they have to play for the team," she said. "And they've got to love every point, the goods, the bad ones.
"They have to love the game of volleyball again."
Playing to potential
As for Memorial's first-round opponents, Oates said the Capers are a good blocking team and one which is strong up the middle.
"So we've stacked a lot of our defence this week to take that away and block their strength. Defensively, they're a scrappy team, but if we can get the ball by the block, we'll be okay."
No matter where they sit and who they face, Oates has 100 per cent confidence in her team.
"There's no doubt in my mind these girls can go out and win an AUS championship this weekend. If the girls play to their potential, we're going to do just fine."