It didn’t take Kristine Ward long to decide where she wanted to go to university.
The left side hitter with the Neelin Spartans varsity girls’ volleyball team, which finished second at the provincial AAAA high school championship this season, has put pen to paper and committed to join the University of Regina Cougars next season. The 17-year-old was looking at staying fairly close to home, but move away from the Brandon area, and Regina fit that bill perfectly.
"They had exactly what I was looking for education-wise, because I want to go into kinesiology," said Ward, who plans to study human kinetics before eventually going into athletic therapy. "They have a really good program there and they have everything that is good for that. It’s not too far away from home also. It’s kind of far away, but I didn’t want to stay in Brandon next year, either. It worked out well."
The 5-foot-10 left side liked what she saw during her recent campus visit. Ward was impressed with Cougars head coach Melanie Sanford, got along with the players well and felt a planned team trip to Japan in August was icing on the cake.
Ward believes she’ll be a good fit with the Cougars. Sanford preaches defence and digging up balls, and Ward — a tournament all-star at the 2012 AAAA provincials which the Spartans won — takes a lot of pride in her serve receive.
Although Ward doesn’t expect to play a lot next season, she is looking forward to the chance to develop and improve her skills. She’s planning to show how good of a teammate she can be by travelling to Regina for the CIS women’s volleyball championship from Feb. 28 to March 1 to cheer on her future Cougar teammates. Those teammates are already helping Ward by easing a lot of her concerns about going to a new place for school.
"It’s really exciting," she said. "It makes going to school next year more exciting than scared. I know I’ll have a group of people to be with already."
Ward is the second member of the Spartans to commit to a university program, after Neelin libero Jamie Campbell verbally committed to join the Brandon University Bobcats in December.
At least four other players from Neelin are expected to commit to universities for next season as well. That means this group, which spent the last four years playing together, may find themselves playing against each other in a couple years, which is something Ward is looking forward to.
"It’s kind of exciting to know that eventually throughout the years we’ll end up playing against each other, even though we’ve been playing with each other for so long," she said. "It will be cool to play against each other at the CIS level and see how everyone has improved from their teams."