By Neil Noonan
It was a bittersweet ending to the season for Red River College’s women’s volleyball team.
Despite being ranked second in the conference with an 11-5 record going into the playoffs, the Rebels fell short to the Canadian Mennonite University Blazers losing the conference semi-final 3-1 on Saturday.
“They just seem to be our kryptonite,” said Ashley Goodwin, Rebels middle and co-MVP of the conference. “They’re scrappy, they get their balls up.”
It was an up and down season for the Rebels. They won their first two matches against the Blazers earlier on in the season, but have now dropped three in a row to them.
Fourth-year Rebels head coach, Dan McGregor, knows the rivalry well. He believes the Blazers don’t have a weak point on their roster this year.
“They’re just a solid all-around team,” said McGregor. “Everyone can hit, everyone defends well, plus they get along and encourage each other on the court.”
The semi-final game acted out as a microcosm of the Rebels entire season, starting down, coming back, and then eventually falling again. But in retrospect, it sounds like they were happy to be there and get the chance to perform on that stage.
“At the beginning of the year, making it to this game and finishing second in the conference…we would have taken that as a win,” said McGregor. “It’s hard to be too disappointed.”
Throughout their very first games in their own preseason tournament, the newly formed Rebels went 0-5 and didn’t have much to hang their hat on to start. But McGregor, who ended up being awarded coach of the year, didn’t make any excuses and continued to tinker with lineups.
“We were exploring a lot of different options,” said McGregor. “We tried to move people around to find some chemistry.”
Players ended up learning new positions and working together in different ways. Neither McGregor or Goodwin were able to pin down exactly what changed their spirit, but the Rebels finally started to put together some wins after such a poor start.
“We all just started to click,” said Goodwin. “I still have no idea how it happened.”
Regardless of how or why the Rebels turned their season around, it’s safe to say they set a new standard heading into next season. More than half of the roster is set to return next year and players like Goodwin will be able to pick up from where they left off.