Courtney Roberts’ first season with the South Dakota State University Jackrabbits was a learning experience, but one she wouldn’t trade for anything.
The 6-foot-1 middle, who graduated from Crocus Plains high school in June, redshirted with the NCAA women’s volleyball team in the fall and watched them post an 8-8 conference record. While she didn’t get any playing time, Roberts feels like she grew a lot as a student, an athlete and a person in general.
"First of all (I learned) that I can do good in school, if I put in a good effort," the 18-year-old Brandonite said. "I came out with all As and Bs, which was a bit of a shock. I worked really hard and did well in that.
"I learned that I’m going to become a lot stronger. I’ll be a lot stronger athlete and a way better volleyball player because I’m constantly putting in lots of effort every day."
Although she didn’t see the court in conference play, the fall semester was very challenging for the education student. She showed up to her team’s first training camp with a broken right wrist, which she suffered while playing for Manitoba’s under-18 team at the National Team Challenge Cup in July.
Things became tougher during her second practice with South Dakota. Roberts sprained her ankle while practising her footwork, which forced her out for four weeks. She was rehabilitating her injuries until October, and felt like her development was well behind the rest of her teammates by the time she came back. However, Roberts put her head down after that and feels like she caught up to the rest of the team by the time the season came to an end on Nov. 9.
"(I was) just working as hard as I could in practice and asking a million questions to everyone, especially the senior middles who I was looking up to," Roberts said. "I was constantly asking them questions and the coaches and stuff."
All that work will pay off this winter. The Jackrabbits lost six seniors to graduation and three other players who chose to leave the team at the end of the conference campaign. That leaves South Dakota with only seven players on its roster, which means Roberts won’t only play during the Jackrabbits’ exhibition winter schedule, but she’ll be starting every match.
Roberts, who helped the Plainsmen to two provincial final appearances while in high school, will return to Brookings, S.D., on Wednesday and resume her training on Thursday. While she’s enjoying her time back in Brandon during the holidays, Roberts can’t wait to start playing again.
"I’m really looking forward to it because I haven’t played in a legitimate volleyball game since August, which is crazy," she said. "I never even had a month’s break since high school. … I’m really looking forward to it. I miss it."