Crocus coach Trista Wenger watches Abbi Robinson pass the ball during the Top 8 Debate tournament Friday. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
The Crocus Plainsmen varsity girls volleyball team feels it’s still in good shape despite losing six starters from last year’s squad who led them to a provincial silver medal.
There are big shoes to fill as all six graduating players earned athletic scholarships at various universities. Jodie Baker and Mary Thomson joined the Brandon Bobcats while Zoe Pellerin and Hope Schneider are now Winnipeg Wesmen. Courtney Roberts left Canada for South Dakota State University and Brittany Wiebe is now on North Dakota State University’s basketball team.
But losing players of that calibre doesn’t bother Abbi Robinson and Stephanie Hunter as the Grade 12 students feel ready to take control of the team.
"I feel there’s definitely some leadership spots that need to be filled," said Robinson on Friday afternoon as the Plainsmen hosted the annual Top 8 Debate tournament at Crocus Plains. "I think it’s really easy. Lots of us blend really well. I’ve played with most of the girls I’m playing with this year, it’s just been a few years."
Robinson, a 5-foot-6 libero, is the only starter returning to the Plainsmen this season and feels like she has to step up because of that, even though she has a different training regimen and can’t give hitting advice.
That’s where Hunter comes in. The 6-foot-1 middle received a fair bit of court time last season, although it was mainly at right side. She’s hoping to shine on the court this season and help guide her team to a fifth straight appearance in the provincial semifinals.
"It’s big shoes to fill because every girl on our team last year was a leader," said Hunter, who is on the bench during this weekend’s tournament with a back injury. "No one else in our grade really got the chance to fill that spot last year. … It will definitely be all the Grade 12s mixed together to help the younger girls. We need all of us to help us along."
The Plainsmen got off to a tough start to the tournament yesterday, falling 25-9, 25-16 to the Westwood Warriors in their first match at Crocus. But they bounced back with a 25-20, 25-19 win over the River East Kodiaks, which impressed head coach Trista Wenger.
Although Wenger admits it will be tough for this year’s squad — which will play more of a ball-control game with smaller players — to live up to last year’s standards, she’s not lowering the team’s goals.
"I think ultimately, no matter what team you’re going to talk to, (making final four) is a great goal to have," she said. "Right now, we’re just trying to take one step at a time and see how we can do success-wise in the city. We have a good core group in the city and it will be real tough to compete with for sure. It will be a lot of fun."
Robinson agrees those six standout players may not be replaced this year, but believes Crocus shouldn’t be counted out.
"We might not have six girls going off to university, but we definitely have six girls who are willing to work their butts off this season to fill the positions," she said.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 15, 2012