Volleyball team earns OUA gold; Schwanke awarded player of the year

Spencer Van Dyk | Fulcrum Staff

Photo by York Sport & Recreation

To say that this past week has been a good one for Karina Krueger Schwanke would be an understatement. The communications student and member of the women’s volleyball team was named OUA (Ontario University Athletics) player of the year, and then went on to help her team win the OUA Championships.

“I didn’t even know there was such a prize,” Schwanke said. “It’s such an honour. It’s so huge. I’ve been working so hard, but it’s a team sport. To get an award like this, I see it as a way to represent my team. I’m an all-star because my team is an all-star, and I’m player of the year because my team is team of the year.”

Schwanke grew up in Brazil and moved to Ottawa for university and to play volleyball, but not without obstacles. Credit transfer issues and the time it took to obtain residency initially kept her from playing for the team.

“She’s only in her third playing year with us,” said women’s volleyball coach Lionel Woods. “But she and I have [worked] together about six years now. When she first arrived in Canada, she couldn’t go to school right away or speak English; there were international fees. There’s such a long history here. She’s become a resident, so her tuition is now affordable and all those kind of things.

“She’s really become a major part of our Gee-Gee family,” Woods continued. “She brought with her all the experience and upbringing from Brazil. They treat volleyball the way we treat hockey. Her maturity and tactical knowledge and comfort with the game is something that our players have learned so much from just by example.”

OUA player of the year is selected by the coaches of the league. They select 14 players, not including those on their own team, and it was Schwanke who received the most first-place votes by points. She is now one of four finalists who are nominated at the national level and one of four U of O players who got an all-star nod. Gee-Gees Myriam English, Kelsie English, and Christina Grail were also named OUA second-team all-stars.

The volleyball team triumphed over the York University Lions in the OUA gold medal game on Feb. 23. After coming back from a 10-6 lead by York, it was Schwanke who scored the winning point in the fifth and final set of the game. This is the fifth provincial championship in volleyball history at the U of O and the second OUA banner earned under Woods’ leadership.

For Schwanke, Woods, and the rest of the team, all focus and excitement has shifted to nationals. The girls will compete at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport championships Feb. 28 to March 2.

“There is a new challenge to be faced now,” Schwanke said. “Everyone is so excited to play the teams we don’t usually get to play.”

“It’s going to be one game at a time, one set at a time,” she concluded. “Nothing else matters.”