Brandon natives Laura Popplestone (above) and Tristan Neudorf suited up for the Lakeland College at BU’s Healthy Living Centre on Friday night. (COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN)
Tristan Neudorf suited up for the Lakeland College at BU’s Healthy Living Centre on Friday night. (COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN)
Laura Popplestone and Tristan Neudorf have similar backgrounds and are spending a lot of time together this college volleyball season, but they have very different roles and expectations with the Lakeland Rustlers this year.
Popplestone, a 20-year-old graduate of Neelin High School, is one of five returning players to a Rustlers’ women’s volleyball team that won a national silver medal last season. She’s back as Lakeland’s starting libero but she’s stepping up into a leadership role this year.
Neudorf, who is living with Popplestone in Lloydminster, Alta., is one of nine new players to join the Rustlers and the 18-year-old Vincent Massey graduate is just trying to crack the starting lineup.
Neudorf, who’s fresh out of high school, feels her move to the college ranks has gone relatively smoothly, but admits that things are a lot easier because of her roommate.
"Laura has been like an angel to have out there," Neudorf said. "She’s shown me the ropes. I live with her as well so we go to practice together and she always helps everything.
"She makes it better. She yells at me when I do something wrong and I’m just ‘Yeah, I know.’"
Neudorf didn’t go to Lloydminster with high expectations for playing time, but she knew she had a chance with so many players leaving the squad.
She started the Rustlers’ first pre-season event on the bench, but moved into the starting lineup at left side during the tournament.
Although Neudorf faces an extra challenge based on her height, she hopes to stay in the starting rotation.
"I’m small," said the 5-foot-5 left side, who was Massey’s team MVP last season. "The challenge is getting blocked a lot. It’s just knowing when to swing away and when you have a seam and when you have a spot, when to use it and when to not."
Popplestone is also 5-foot-5, but she doesn’t have to worry about getting blocked as she only plays in the back row and her job is to dig up balls and make good passes to set up the offence.
Libero isn’t a position she was overly familiar with when she graduated high school, but she learned it when she spent her first year redshirting with the Brandon University Bobcats, who are hosting the Rustlers and Manitoba Bisons in this weekend’s tournament at BU’s Healthy Living Centre. Now in her second season with Lakeland, Popplestone admits she’s a very different player now.
"It’s totally different," she said. "When I first came here I was straight out of high school and had never played libero before. I played left side, so going in there and starting at libero and having a great group of girls that support me and have confidence in me makes a huge difference."
Popplestone is studying science and plans to transfer to a university. She’s not sure what her future will have in store for her and she’s not worried about it right now. Instead she’s focusing on becoming a leader for Lakeland and helping the Rustlers return to the national championship.
"Having that experience as a silver medallist has that much more of a drive to get these girls to where we want to be," she said.
"We saw and experienced it last year and that just has us wanting it a little bit more. These are a good group of girls and they’re ready to learn and get there, I think."
Lakeland will take on the Manitoba Bisons today at the HLC at 5 p.m., and close out their weekend when they take on the host Bobcats on Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 12, 2013