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Team profile: Women’s volleyball

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Heading into the final games of the season, the women’s volleyball team has their eyes on a playoff berth. The Huskies haven’t advanced to the post-season since the 2001/02 season, but are in a good position to do so this year.

Currently in a battle with the University of Regina Cougars for the seventh and final playoff spot, the Dogs will need to finish their season off well if they want to make their goal a reality — something head coach Jason Grieve thinks the team is capable of doing.

The team’s goal “is to make the playoffs and right now we’re in that hunt. We’re in a tight race for it,” he said.

The Huskies had their best start since the 1998/99 season after opening with two wins over the University of Alberta Pandas, but have since had trouble maintaining consistent results.

“We’ve had some good success,” Grieve said. “We’ve had lots of ups and downs though, and we’re hoping to continue it on an upswing to finish the season.”

Facing lower ranked squads for their final season matches, the Huskies have a great opportunity to pick up some much needed points. But the Dogs won’t be underestimating any of their opponents. Instead, they’re focused on taking it one match at a time.

“The majority of the top teams in the country are in our conference,” Grieve said. “Every weekend you’re playing a very good team. You can’t look at a team’s record and judge them just by that.”

Since Grieve took over the leadership role in 2012, the team has been steadily progressing. The Huskies hadn’t won more than four matches since the 2007/08 season and have already doubled that total this year with more games still to play. Grieve attributes much of the success to the work the athletes put in on the court and in the gym and believes the team can become even stronger.

“We’re still a relatively young team, so we’re still trying to improve in all areas if its tactical or technical pieces,” he said. “I think the biggest obstacle for us right now is going to be the mental/emotional piece. As we’re getting into new experiences and new situations, new pressures, how do we manage through that? How do we prepare for that? How do we deal with it within the game?”

The Huskies are a smaller team than many of the others in the conference and rely on certain strengths to beat their bigger opponents. Rounding into the final games, the team will have to keep their game sharp if they want to take down the big dogs in the division.

“We really rely heavily on our skill and on our speed of our game,” Grieve said. “For us it’s just trying to work on increasing the speed of our offence … and to play a bit of a relentless defence. When teams play against us we should be a frustrating team to play against from a defensive standpoint.”

Apart from building high-performance athletes, Grieve also focuses on preparing the players for the challenges they will face after leaving the team. Knowing that the athletes only spend so long competing on the court, he tries to instill values that will aid them in all endeavours including passion, competitive fire, desire to learn and resiliency.

“We’re preparing them for a volleyball game right now, but at the end of the day when they graduate we’re preparing them to be well prepared to jump into the next goal after university,” he said.

In the coming seasons, the Huskies are looking to challenge the best in the country and come out on top. Grieve thinks success is well within the team’s bounds.

“We’re looking towards building a national championship program with the U of S and there’s no reason why we can’t,” he said. “We just have to continue to work hard year-round and keep adding more pieces to the puzzle.”

As for why students should come out and support the Huskies, Grieve isn’t short on reasons. Apart from quick pace rallies and excellent athleticism on display, the athletes thrive off the environment the fans create.

“When you’re out there and you have all these people supporting the Huskies, you get into it and a lot of school pride comes out,” Grieve said. “For our players, when they get out there they love having that support behind them.”

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