Shanlee McLennan passes the ball during Brandon University Bobcats women’s volleyball practice Wednesday. (COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN)
The Canada Summer Games may have been the boost Shanlee McLennan, Jodie Baker and Mary Thomson needed.
All three travelled to Sherbrooke, Que., last month to represent Manitoba on the volleyball court at the Canada Games, where they won a bronze medal, and have returned to the Brandon University Bobcats as better players. They’ve shown solid growth from last year through the first two weeks of training camp, and now the trio hope to help the Bobcats reach the Canada West playoffs for the first time since the 2010-11 season.
McLennan, a 19-year-old left side, has the chance to make the biggest impact on the team. Last year she moved into the Bobcats’ starting lineup and finished second on the team with 194 kills. McLennan continued to show how dominant she can be with the provincial team, playing in all but one set in the Canada Games and finishing the six-match event with 60 kills, two aces and 3 1/2 blocks.
Bobcats head coach Lee Carter believes McLennan became more consistent in Quebec and hopes she can carry that consistency into this season with the Bobcats. McLennan, a 5-foot-11 Winnipegger heading into her third year at BU, also hopes to draw on her experience from the summer.
"I did get a lot of volume with the Canada Games team and hopefully I can contribute more than I did last year to this team and get that volume here too," said McLennan, who stepped into a leadership role for Team Manitoba.
The Canada Games also gave Baker plenty of motivation for this season with BU. The 19-year-old Crocus Plains graduate was one of three middles with the team, sitting at No. 2 on the depth chart. She started all six matches, but only played in 14 of Manitoba’s 20 sets. She finished with eight kills, three aces and 5 1/2 blocks.
Things are a little different for her with the Bobcats as they have three middles — Baker, Meaghan Robertson and Lexi Loewen —competing for the two starting spots, but this time Baker is lowest on the depth chart. Like the Canada Games team, the three get along really well and while they all want the chance to play on the court, Baker is going to take her greatest learning experience with the provincial team — being a good teammate — to help her through this upcoming Canada West season.
"It just made me a better teammate and I think us three middles had a good understanding," said the 6-foot-1 second-year player, who is comfortable with her spot on the depth chart, but wants to be a starter by the end of the season.
"Alicia (Ogoms) always played and Emily (Erickson) and I had to battle it out, but I thought we both handled it really well and supported each other and helped with whoever was on and got liberoed off. Whoever was on the bench, we tried to help the other person and just do well as a team."
Thomson is in a different situation than the other two. The 19-year-old Crocus Plains graduate didn’t receive a lot of playing time at the Canada Games — she appeared in five sets and had five kills and one ace — and isn’t expected to see the court much this season as fifth-year setter Kellie Baker should get the nod as starter.
But the 5-foot-10 Brandonite, heading into her second year with BU, is fine with that.
Last year was Thomson’s first time spending a full season as a setter — she split time at left side before — and she feels her time with the provincial team and this season as a back-up will help her learn the game and her position even better.
"I love learning from Kellie," Thomson said. "She’s awesome and a great role model for me, on and off the court. I think another year to learn what she’s learned from the past five years and take that and move that into my next three (will be good). I think it will be a great season."
The Bobcats open their pre-season on Oct. 4 when they host a tournament.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 12, 2013