After winning their eighth consecutive Atlantic University Sport (AUS) championship, the Dalhousie University Tigers women’s volleyball team lost their chance to compete in the U Sports national championship. The tournament, set for March 13-15, was cancelled on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dalhousie was trying to earn their first medal in 36 years.
“It’s pretty devastating to the team,” said head coach Rick Scott.
The Tigers were already in Calgary preparing to play the following day when they were informed that the tournament was cancelled.
“There was a lot of emotion in the room. The girls were pretty devastated and upset. They really wanted to compete, you know? They put a lot of work and time in and that’s the culmination of all your hard work,” said Scott.
Dalhousie has not won a medal at the national championship since 1984 when the team lost in the final game, earning them a silver medal.
This year, they were ranked second heading into the tournament.
“The fact that we felt we could have done something special made it even more disappointing. There’s no guarantees of anything, but we felt we had a really good team,” said Scott.
It’s a sudden end to an otherwise strong season.
The Tigers had a record of 19 wins and one loss (19-1) during the regular season, leading to the team’s 25th AUS championship in school history. Dalhousie fifth-year players Courtney Baker and Victoria Haworth were named to the U Sports all-Canadian first and second teams, respectively. Courtney Baker was also named the U Sports Player of the Year and the AUS Most Valuable Player.
All but four members of the team will be able to return next season to compete for another chance to play at nationals. But for Baker, Haworth, Kristen Bartmann and Micaela Sabean, there are no more chances for university glory on the national stage.
Scott’s message to his graduating seniors was simple: thank you.
“Thanks for all your time, hard work, everything you’ve given to the program,” said Scott. “Not a lot of people make university volleyball, less play five years, even less win five championships.”
This year’s mark of 32 total wins, which includes exhibition tournaments and playoff games, is the most Scott has had since taking over the team in 2008. He credited the talent level of his team for reaching that mark, noting that many players at Dalhousie who did not start games regularly could easily have been starters or star players on other teams.
Despite their success, it will be at least another year before the Tigers can compete for a national title.
“I’m sorry for all the players, because you never know when you’re going to get to a national championship,” said Scott. “So, I really feel for all 17 players that weren’t able to compete in a national championship which is the highlight of the season. You get to compete against the best and represent your university and conference, so I’m just really sorry for them.”