By Kirk Jessome
Looking to extend their consecutive conference championship win streak to eight, the Tigers women’s volleyball team was primed to take their winning ways to the national stage.
Led by U SPORTS player of the year Courtney Baker and second team all-Canadian Victoria Haworth, the depth of the Tigers roster was outstanding, with five players earning conference accolades this year.
Along with fifth-year players Baker and Haworth, third-year outside hitter Julie Moore was named a conference first team all-star for the third-straight year. Second-year libero Catherine Callaghan was named a second team all-star and Myriam Arseneau earned a spot on the conference all-rookie team.
Tigers head coach Rick Scott talked about how important that depth is to a winning team.
“Depth is extremely important,” he says. “You will always have an injury or illness and having players that can go in and do the job is key. Having a deep bench really allows your team to have great training sessions where everyone pushes each other to be better.”
They started off the season with an 8-0 record in the fall semester that included winning the AUS League Tournament. In a dominant performance during that run, the Tigers lost just three sets in the first half.
With that terrific start, the Tigers were ranked in the top three in the U SPORTS top-10 consistently throughout the season. Coach Scott noted high rankings can add some pressure but says that his team handled it professionally.
“Being ranked number one can add a lot of additional pressure, but that being said, pressure can be a good thing if you deal with it properly and embrace it,” says Scott. “Pressure can bring the best out of players and teams.”
The team certainly embraced that pressure, finishing the winter semester with an 11-1 record to end the regular season at 19-1 to earn the number one seed in the AUS playoffs. The lone loss came on the road to Acadia in the second last match of the regular season.
In the first matchup of the AUS playoffs, the Tigers hosted the UNB Reds in a best-of-three semifinal series. After winning game one in straight sets, the Tigers moved on to the championship final with a 3-1 victory in the second match.
With fantastic performances from the Tigers seniors on the attack, the Tigers claimed their eighth-consecutive AUS title with back-to-back straight set wins over Saint Mary’s.
Two weeks later, the Tigers were ready to begin their quest for a national championship, but the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled the 2019-20 U SPORTS event. It was a very disappointing way to end the season, but Coach Scott made sure to give final recognition to his graduating seniors.
“They are all tremendous players who continued to improve and get better each year. Courtney and Tori (Harworth) have become two of the best players not only in the AUS but in the entire country. It’s been so rewarding to see the kind of women they have become – great people, teammates and leaders.”
With a tough end to the season for the team, especially those graduating, the Tigers will look ahead to next season with a strong group returning that will be ready to step up at the national tournament next year.