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King’s women’s volleyball set up for success to start the year

The Blue Devils’ rookies are making all the difference this season

The University of King’s College women’s volleyball team is seeing unprecedented success this season, going undefeated through their first six matches for a record of seven wins and one loss (7-1) to start the season.

The Blue Devils were the last team left undefeated in the Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association (ACAA) after ending Mount Saint Vincent University’s streak on Nov. 25 by beating them 3-1

“[The streak] is definitely keeping us going and keeping us motivated,” said Frances Cooke, a second-year political science and contemporary studies major and left side for the team, prior to the team’s first loss.

Lauren Read, a second-year biology major and middle for the Blue Devils, was also walking the line of being stressed and excited about the streak.

“Every game, no matter how well we’re doing, if we start to waver a little, my heart rate is through the roof,” said Read. “I am so stressed, but it’s really fun.”

Unfortunately for King’s, the Mystics returned the favour on Dec. 1, winning the 2nd, 3rd and 4th sets to end their opponents’ streak. However, the Blue Devils remain the top team in the conference. 

Despite their early successes, Cooke says the team is also making sure they don’t underestimate their opponents. 

“We’ve watched in other teams, the dangers of being an undefeated team and then not being able to bounce back from a loss,” she said. “We’re really cautious of getting too cocky and playing down.” 

The Blue Devils were able to honour that statement, beating the University of New Brunswick Saint John on Dec. 3, immediately rebounding from their single loss. 

New energy

Cooke attributes some of the team’s early success to their rookies. 

“We brought in a really great recruiting class that kind of filled the different pieces we were needing,” she said. “We were always really strong offensively last year, but this year we’ve picked up some really great defensive pieces that are just rounding out our whole playing style.”

The Blue Devils brought in six new players this season, increasing the roster from 12 players to 15, after the loss of last year’s graduating class. 

“We’re not used to bringing in such a large recruiting class,” said Cooke. “Learning how to fold them into the mix, getting to know new people and bringing them into our team goals has not been a challenge but a thing we’ve been focusing on.” 

The large class of first-year players have also been instrumental in creating a good team atmosphere this season.

“I think the team dynamic is great,” said Read. “We’re really close and it’s very much like a family, so when you go out to play it’s really fun, which is good.”

The rookies have taken part in many team bonding activities, including Friday team yoga, a Thanksgiving celebration and many hangouts and study sessions in the team room. 

“Our team room is where half of us live and when we see them come in and start doing homework with us a little bit more we’re like ‘Oh yeah! We’ve sucked you in!’” said Read. “They’re just really great.”

This friendship within the team has also translated into more hard work on the court. 

“We’re already a pretty young team but watching the rookies make such incredible plays really just motivates us to also keep the ball up,” said Cooke. “If they’re throwing themselves all over the place to keep the ball alive, I’m not about to miss it.”

Working harder

Despite boasting seven wins in eight games, the Blue Devils haven’t stopped putting in the extra effort. 

“I’m working specifically on being a more disciplined defensive player,” said Cooke, who admits to wandering and not always ending up in the correct position on the court. “I’m also working on personally being a smarter player and being more strategic with my attacks.”

Last season, Cooke received the team’s Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year awards. She was also named to the ACAA’s Women’s Volleyball First Team All-Conference. 

“I led some leaderboards last year, so hopefully I can keep that going this year,” said Cooke. 

The team also has some big collective goals this time around. 

“We really want to win the banner, that’s the biggest one,” said Read. “It’s written on our wall, on a nice big poster.”

The Blue Devils will return to the court on Jan. 13 to play St. Thomas University at home, where they hope to continue dominating the conference.

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