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Tigers pushing for first place amongst tough competition

Dal women’s volleyball working to replicate previous successes this season

The Dalhousie University women’s volleyball team is determined to feel the rush of the U Sports Women’s Volleyball Championship again after winning the bronze medal game against the Manitoba Bisons 3-2 last season.

“Everyone knows how much work it takes,” said Kasandra Trenke, a second-year microbiology and immunology major. “The dedication is really there because we know how good it feels to achieve something so great, so we’re working so much harder to do it again this year.”

However, the team has had a harder time staying on top this season, with Acadia University, the University of New Brunswick and Saint Mary’s University all finishing ahead of them at the end of the fall semester. 

“I know in my first year, Dal was a pretty dominant team in the league, but it hasn’t exactly been the same since then,” said Grace Calnan, a fifth-year environmental science major and middle for the Tigers. “It’s definitely been different and it makes the games more interesting for sure.” 

Despite not dominating as much as they’re used to, the Tigers still have their fair share of wins to fall back on. One win the Tigers are particularly proud of is their 3-1 victory over SMU on Nov. 12. 

“That was the first time for me that I think it really clicked for us and I think back to that game as kind of our standard goal,” said Amelia Hartnett, an outside hitter for the Tigers, who got her first start in that game. “Everyone was working together and we were able to win and dominate.”

Big changes

While the Tigers are hoping to achieve similar results to last season this time around, they’ve seen substantial changes to their team this year. 

This season, the Dal team welcomed their new head coach, Michelle Aucoin, a former head coach of fellow AUS team the St. Francis Xavier X-women and a Dalhousie Tiger back in her university days.

“I know this is her first year coaching at Dal, but she has brought this energy into the team and she is the most respectful coach I have ever met in my life,” said Hartnett. “She genuinely cares about us as people, as students, our mental health and our physical health as well, and I think that’s going to contribute to the team’s success.” 

Aucoin’s coaching style isn’t always what the Tigers are used to, but Calnan also thinks it’s having a positive impact on their game. 

“It can take some time getting used to a new coach, and for them getting used to us,” she said. “Each coach has a different way of running practice and a game, but I think it’s been a good change for us.” 

Aucoin isn’t the only new factor to the team, however. Hartnett is also new to Dal, pursuing a Master’s of Health Administration after finishing her undergraduate degree at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida. 

“It’s been a really great switch for me honestly,” said Hartnett. “I was on the fence about playing but then I decided to join this team because I heard about the culture. Everyone said that everyone’s just best friends and I was moving to Halifax and didn’t know anybody so I was like awesome, I’ll play volleyball.”

The switch has also presented difficulties at some points. Due to different subbing rules in Canada, Hartnett has had to play back row for the first time in her university sports career this season. However, she is staying positive about the new challenge. 

“I really just need to focus on it in practice and in games, but also be graceful to myself, knowing that I’m not going to make a perfect dig every time,” said Hartnett. “One thing I can control is being ready and in the right position and as long as I make a touch up I’m okay with that for the moment.” 

Navigating the pressure

The Dal Tigers have been the AUS champions for the past ten seasons, but the current team doesn’t like to look at the past to set expectations for themselves. 

“We always try and play with the mindset that this [lineup] hasn’t won a championship, so the past doesn’t have anything to do with it,” said Trenke. “We try to keep that pressure out of our regular season.” 

After their successful season last year, the Tigers also know how hard it’s going to be to get back to the top. 

“Getting to that medal game last year was definitely not easy,” said Calnan. “I think everybody understands that it’s not going to get handed to us. Everyone understands how much each person will have to put into it and sacrifice in order to get there.”


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