A mix of the old and the new
by Cambrian Varsity Athletics
There is certainly an element of stability to a Cambrian Golden Shield women’s volleyball team that returns no less than five starters from their
2016-2017 squad which qualified for the OCAA Championships. The fact that Jillian Vallier, Kendra Muffo, Hayley Chisholm, Amanda Kring and
Emily Clark are all back in the fold created a comfort level for coach Dale Beausoleil right out of the gate.
It’s an environment that also might seem a tad intimidating, perhaps, for the likes of Isabelle Rivest and Brianne Berriault, a pair of
newcomers thrust immediately into the thick of the mix, playing significant roles within a few weeks of their arrival. Intimidating, perhaps, to someone
with far different personality traits than the Midland native who transferred over from Georgian College and stepped in as starting libero.
“Our job is pretty busy, since we are watching the entire court,” noted Berriault. “We only play back row. We see everything, and that’s why I’m often
the loudest and most obnoxious on the court. I’m calling everything I see.”
There is a certain confidence with which the incoming defensive specialist approaches her role, surely part and parcel of having spent a full season
with the Cloud County T-Birds in Concordia (Kansas), before completing her Fitness & Health degree at Georgian. With Cambrian offering an extension
within the same discipline, Berriault opted to combine academics and athletics, once again, a little further north.
And while her experience over the past few years has provided a platform from which to grow, she is extremely thankful for a slightly different approach
being utilized in the land of the Golden Shield. “Dale (Beausoleil) is very sound with individual techniques, whereas a lot of other coaches focus more on
team systems,” explained Berriault.
“That’s new to me, learning what I need to do alone, rather than learning what I need to do with the team. It’s actually really good for me. I feel like
I’ve improved a lot, just having that individual time and being able to focus on my mistakes, what I do wrong, so that I can fix it. His approach is that
if we are all individually strong, then as a team, we’re even better.”
In recent years, Beausoleil has duly noted the difference that came part and parcel of the Cambrian move to the West Division of the OCAA a few
years back. He is not about to receive an argument from Berriault, based on her very recent experience. “The West is very different,” she agreed. “There
are some heavy, heavy hitters in the West.”
“In the East, you have some good teams, and you have a group that is rebuilding the last couple of years. There is a noticeable distinction of skill
level. In the West, all the teams are strong. For a major chunk, it’s anybody’s game. You have to go in strong every game, because every opponent is a
competitor. You have teams where all six players on the court are putting balls down.”
That ability to score consistently is also shared by a handful of the Cambrian vets, including left side Hayley Chisholm, most noticeably, playing the
best volleyball of her career, according to Beausoleil. Completing her fifth and final year of post-secondary eligibility, the graduate of Lasalle
Secondary was anxious to expand her already significant role on the team as she looks to close out her time at Cambrian with a bang.
“Personally, this year, I wanted to come in with strong leadership in mind, knowing I was going to be the oldest,” said Chisholm. “There are a lot of
younger girls, so I wanted to lead them in a positive way, which I hope I am doing. One of my main focuses this year was just to be a stronger passer, help
lead our defensive line, our passing line, to be able to run a good offense off our passing.”
With an OCAA move to a more expanded “qualifying games” format for post-season play, there is a little bit more of a built-in cushion for teams to focus
on the end product on the court in February, versus necessarily wins and losses in October and November. Still, despite a record of 3-5 and with first half
games remaining against Humber and Sheridan, Chisholm is certain that this current edition of the team is well positioned for a second half run.
“Other teams might look at our record, but points and losses aside, we can actually look at those games where we did a lot of good things,” she said.
“Usually, our first half is kind of slow, but I think we started a little bit stronger than we usually do, which is good.”
"We’ll finish this half a lot stronger than we have in the past, and we’ll go into the second half way stronger than before.” Part of that belief lies
in the gradual strengthening of the bond that setter Kendra Muffo is developing with each of her teammates, a key to the success of any good volleyball
“She is very attentive in understanding how everyone likes their sets a little differently,” Chisholm explained. “That’s just the athletic nature that
she has, that mentality to work on fixing things, knowing that everybody hits a completely different ball.”
And in the end, the sum of all of these parts coming together, both new and old, will quite likely determine just how far the 2017-2018 edition of the
Cambrian women’s volleyball team will go.