In the last few years, Victoria Dakin has developed into one of the most consistent players on the Brandon University Bobcats women’s volleyball team.
She started as a first-year who saw limited court time before becoming a starting right side in her second year with the team. This season, Dakin has blossomed into the player head coach Lee Carter hoped she would be. Dakin is leading the team with 2.68 kills per set — she had less than seven kills in only two of Brandon’s 16 matches this season — and has become one of the leaders and co-captains on the squad.
"Tori’s been awesome for us," Carter said. "She does whatever we request of her. We want her to pass, she’ll pass. We want you to block, she’ll block. We want you to swing, she’ll swing. I want you to lead by example, she leads by example. Tori is what everybody refers to as an ultimate core player."
What’s most impressive about Dakin leading the team in kills is she has played right side in all but Brandon’s two most recent matches. Usually, the right side has a higher attack percentage — and her .230 mark puts her third on the team behind setter Kellie Baker and middle Meaghan Robertson — but doesn’t get as many sets because the trouble balls are usually set to the left side. However, Dakin has been identified as someone who can get the Bobcats out of trouble and has the second-most total attacks on the Bobcats this season.
The 6-foot-0 Calgary native feels she’s greatly benefitted from the quick sets to the right side this season, but credits her consistent play to a mental trainer who worked with her when she was 15 years old.
"He taught me a lot about keeping your mind at a steady level through practice and a game, so it’s just consistency every day," she said. "There are key words that I use between points and sets that keep me at the same level. I don’t get high. I don’t get low. I don’t get affected by much."
It’s that level-headed approach that has helped launch the 20-year-old into a leadership role. The Bobcats, who are tied for eighth place in Canada West with a 6-10 record, are a very young group with only two fourth-year players in Baker and Lexi Loewen. Everyone else on the roster is in their first three years of eligibility.
With so many young players on the team, Dakin has taken it upon herself to make sure everyone on the team is fitting in and helping them with any problems on or off the court. Carter described Dakin as the team mom and it’s a role she’s happy to fill.
"I try to keep a good relationship with each of the players and I know what page they’re on and that kind of thing," she said. "I try to connect with them on a weekly basis. I know they come to me for conversations. They come to me for little pieces of advice and stuff. They know they can come to me and I try to put my look on things that I’ve done in the past so hopefully it helps them in the future."
Although Dakin has been excelling so far this season, she’ll be filling a different role on the court for the rest of the season. She switched over to left side for Friday’s and Saturday’s matches against the third-ranked Alberta Golden Bears — which the two teams split — as Chloe Reimer fractured her right ankle in practice and isn’t expected to return until the playoffs.
Dakin hasn’t played much left side since she played high school and club volleyball, but she got off to a solid start on the weekend. She had 29 kills and a .218 attack percentage against Alberta and hopes that trend will continue, even though her approach to attacks will be very different.
"It’s easier to strike from the right side because you get more seams and it’s a quicker set," she said. "At left side, it’s pretty much hitting it as hard as you can and trying to get through the block and take someone’s head off, which is a good thing. My thing is to swing as hard as I can and hope for the best."