After losing four players to injury last year and having to do heavy recruiting, the COTR Avalanche women’s volleyball coach John Swanson is feeling good going into the 2018 season.
“So going into this season,initially the kind of strategy coming into it was a little bit different just based on last year, unfortunately having four players on our team last year endure four different career-threatening injuries,” Swanson said.
“You deal with injuries and those kind of things but you don’t ever think that you’d have four players not able to return or even play competitive, collegiate volleyball again just because of a bad back, a neck and two knee injuries — it kind of finished their college careers.”
The team lost Megan Beckett, Danielle Warner, Janine Harach and most recently Presley Gould. Presley is back at her academic pursuits at COTR and the others have moved on studying elsewhere, but Swanson said “they are all part of the COTR family” and he does his best to reach out to them all and keep connected.
“Even if they’re not in the program they’re still near and dear to my heart,” he said. “We want to continue to wish them all the best and keep in touch and when we’re on the road they’re excited to come out and support us. I just feel badly I don’t get the opportunity to work with them more and develop them as players on and off the court, but it is what it is.”
Swanson says that though it’s an unfortunate and indeed a unique situation for the team to deal with, they now need to move forward this year and get the new group developing as fast as possible.
“We need to take that group and push them and develop them as fast as possible, because it’s an incredibly competitive conference and arguably the best conference in the country,” Swanson said. “And we’re not going to get any sympathy from any of the other teams so we’re going to have to push and play to the best of our abilities.”
The team also lost one of their star players Alexa Koshman, but they knew that in advance and so Swanson said that the team will be relying heavily on Mikaela Pushor, their five-year veteran and Megan Clark, their third-year vet, as well as the second-year players who have at least been through the program once. Swanson said they will be charged with picking up the slack of development and helping to mould the first-year players into being competitive and strong players both on and off the court.
“It’s always a learning curve of not even just dealing with the change in volleyball, but the change of life and being independent and now going to classes on your own and all those kind of things. So it’s going to be a year of learning and developing but they’re a great bunch of ladies who have come in.”
Local players include returning player Brooke Lightburn and new signees Katie Anderson and Sam Lautrup, fresh graduates from Mount Baker.
The women’s team hosted Ambrose on September 7 and 8 for an informal scrimmage-type exhibition which gave them a change to play in a competitive situation and get used to each other after about two weeks of practise.
“I think a common theme after last year, but we just got to make sure we’re healthy and there are a couple players who are a little bit banged up even starting the season,” Swanson said. “So we’ve got to make sure they’re healthy and ready to go, because we’ll have a tough match against Capilano and Douglas on our first road trip in mid October.”
COTR is also hosting provincials this year and Swanson said he is very excited about that and hopes they can perform to the best of their abilities, adding:
“The support in town just rises and increases our enthusiasm even that much higher which helps us to compete at the highest level.”
The regular season kicks off on October 11 in Vancouver as they go up against Capilano and Douglas. The home opener against UFV takes place on October 19 and 20.