Two years after deciding to play NCAA women’s volleyball with the South Dakota State University Jackrabbits, Courtney Roberts has decided to return home.
After high school, the 19-year-old Crocus Plains graduate opted for the Jackrabbits knowing she would redshirt her first season and the second year would be about rebuilding a squad that lost six top-end players. The 2013-14 campaign was tough, but she doesn’t see the team developing very quickly and decided to join the Bobcats next season.
Roberts is excited to join a team that finished second in the Canada West conference with a 17-5 record last season and to reconnect with some of her best friends in setter Mary Thomson and middle Jodie Baker. The three grew up together and helped the Plainsmen reach the provincial AAAA high school volleyball final in 2011. They also played club volleyball together, along with BU left side Gillian Leech.
"I’m so excited to be back playing with them," Roberts said. "We’ve been best friends since Grade 9 and we still are. It’s going to be exciting to see how they’ve changed over the past few years as a volleyball player, and me too."
Roberts, who’s 6-foot-1, spent last season as an outside hitter at SDSU. She played in 26 matches, starting 17, for the Jackrabbits and averaged 1.86 kills per set, the second-highest on the team, had an attack percentage of .083 and was also involved in 34 blocks for a team that went 3-11 in conference play.
Roberts doesn’t care where she plays on the court, and Carter is looking at using her at middle, where she played in high school.
The Bobcats have a huge hole at middle after Lexi Loewen, who set a school record for most blocks in a season, exhausted her eligibility. Carter is looking at having Roberts and Baker battle for the starting spot that doesn’t belong to Meaghan Robertson, who’s also a Crocus alumna.
"Meaghan’s going to be Meaghan and I think Jodie and Courtney are both there to battle for that spot," Carter said. "That sets us up for a lot of depth, plus Courtney can play right side if we have to. She played right side in the States last year and she has an opportunity to do that as well."
Roberts is the third Westman player to start her career in the NCAA before returning to Brandon to play with the Bobcats. Ashley Creighton returned from the University of Pittsburgh in 2006 and Sara Grona came back from Central Connecticut State University in 2008.
A new CIS rule this season allows Canadian student-athletes returning home from the NCAA to play the following season instead of having to sit out a year first. Getting another local to return home pleases Carter.
"Any time we get local athletes that want to be part of Brandon volleyball and help build volleyball in Brandon and help be role models for the young women coming up is exciting," he said.
Roberts, who will be heading into her second year of eligibility next season, is planning to continue her studies in sociology at BU.
She also believes she’s being welcomed with open arms to the Bobcats and hopes she can make a positive impact with the team next season.
"I don’t have any regrets about going to South Dakota State, but I thought I really learned how to work hard," she said.
"I think in high school and club I kind of relied more on talent. When you get to college and the game speeds up so much, I think it becomes more of a hard work ethic. I hope I can bring a positive attitude and a good work ethic for the team."