Head coach Lee Carter says left side Brianna Walsh has been the consummate team player for the Brandon University Bobcats women’s volleyball squad for the past three years and that her most recent act shows it.
The 5-foot-11 Calgary native felt she wouldn’t be content to be a role player with the Bobcats next season, so she has decided to leave the team rather than risking being a distraction. It would have been tough for Walsh to crack Brandon’s starting lineup with the squad returning Victoria Dakin and Shanlee McLennan — both of whom are expected to be on BU’s leadership team next year — and Canada West all-rookie team member Vaovai Aiono as outside hitters.
Although Walsh, 21, started in only two of her 38 Canada West conference matches, Carter hates to see her go.
"I think Bri is a big loss," he said. "She was a really great role player and she’s been doing that role for the last two years. Her first year was a good learning year and since then she’s gotten better and better. She’s got an incredible work ethic and does a great job of being a role model for all the young athletes to point out how hard she works, day in and day out. I was disappointed when she chose to remove herself from the team and take a little break from volleyball."
Walsh finishes her three years in Brandon with 23 kills, 24 blocks, nine aces and 69 digs.
Her departure, which trims Brandon’s roster to 17 players, the largest in team history, may put some more pressure on the Bobcats younger players to come off the bench next season.
Carter knows that Jodie Baker, heading into her third year, and South Dakota State University transfer Courtney Roberts, who are expected to battle for the second starting middle spot, can also play on the right side if he needs them there, but Carter is also looking at Regan Dahl to step up in the fall.
Dahl worked mainly as a serve specialist in her rookie season, but Carter believes she is ready to step up and has similar traits to Walsh.
"Regan Dahl came a long way this year," he said. "Even though she’s only in her second year, she works really hard. She’ll kind of fill that void of being that younger person you can point to and say ‘Look at Regan lift the weights really hard and she doesn’t miss a ball in practice. She always goes 100 per cent like Brianna did.’ Brianna did a great job of teaching Regan how to fill that role ...
"(New recruit) Nikki Majewski is an unbelievably talented athlete and she’s going to fight for some minutes coming off the bench, too. We have a good setup. We’re going to miss Bri, but I think we’re OK."
CAT SCRAP: Carter announced that Andrew Korol has officially joined his staff as an assistant coach.