He’s lost a two-time conference MVP and a couple of all-stars, but Memorial University volleyball coach John Slauenwhite refuses to concede the 2017-18 Atlantic University Sport season will be a rebuilding one for the Sea-Hawks.
Memorial is coming off back-to-back conference final appearances, where the Sea-Hawks lost both championship games to the powerhouse Dalhousie Tigers, the reigning five-time AUS champs.
Slauenwhite maintains the Sea-Hawks’ goal is to against get the final game of the year, but it looks like it could be a bit more difficult this time around, with the graduation of Bishop’s Falls star Jill Snow, the best player in the AUS the past two years.
"We have players who are poised to take on bigger roles this season and I’m confident they can fill the void.”
Memorial volleyball coach John Slauenwhite
On top of that, first-team all-star Maya Westwood of Manitoba is not back, and neither is second-team AUS all-star Kassandra Menzies of Alberta, who graduated. And you can add to the list Saskatchewan’s Layna Levorson, who led the conference in blocks per set last season.
However, Slauenwhite likes what he sees on this crop of Sea-Hawks, who will dress five first-year players — Emma Hackett of Clarenville, Katie Wagar of Halifax, Hailey Oke of Corner Brook, Kaitlyn Kuchinka of Edmonton and Catherine Smith of Mount Pearl.
“We have players who are poised to take on bigger roles this season,” he said, “and I’m confident they can fill the void.
“That said, it’s obviously not easy to replace a two-time AUS MVP. It’s tough for us to lose that type of person in Jill, who was also a leader.
“But at the same time, it gives someone else an opportunity to step in and take on a bigger role.”
One of those players Slauenwhite is talking about is Kier Fey of Manitoba. Fey was also a second-team AUS all-star last season, and will be tasked to take over Snow’s position at outside hitter.
“She did a very good job in the pre-season,” said Slauenwhite, entering his fourth season as the Sea-Hawks’ mentor. “Statistically, we need to try and fill the void of Jill and how many kills she had per game.
“And Alison Poynter has taken on a bigger role in the setter’s position,” Slauenwhite said of the St. John’s native, who was an all-star at the Ottawa Gee Gees pre-season tourney. “She’s hit the ground running, has taken over and is doing an excellent job as a team leader.”
The Sea-Hawks finished fourth of 10 teams in the Gee Gees Classic. They also went 1-1 during an exhibition weekend at Dalhousie, losing to the Tigers and registering a win over the Acadia Axewomen.
Memorial kicks off its new season at home this weekend with three games against Moncton. Game times at the Field House are 7 o’clock tonight, 7 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.