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Women’s volleyball team returns from national championships

Spencer Van Dyk | Fulcrum Staff

Photo by Justin Labelle

IT WAS AN unforgettable weekend for the Gee-Gees women’s volleyball team, who finished fourth at this year’s Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) championships. It was the best Ontario finish in over a decade, and best University of Ottawa finish in over 20 years.

After having a phenomenal season of 14 consecutive wins and making it to the top 10 in Ontario University Athletics (OUA), the Gee-Gees earned this weekend’s success. The championships gave them the opportunity to play against western conference teams they hadn’t had the chance to play before.

“It was fun to play because western teams are so much bigger than we are,” said team captain Kathryn Weihrer. “They play a completely different game. They have a different and faster style. It was nice to see that we could match up against them. I think we really proved that we are top four in Canada.”

The girls kicked off the weekend with a 3-0 win against the host team, the Université de  Sherbrooke Vert & Or. Gee-Gees coach Lionel Woods said excitement was high for that game, and starting off the tournament against a team they had played before worked to their advantage and helped set the tone for the weekend.

“It was a very solid game and we knew that Sherbrooke would show up to play,” said OUA player of the year Karina Krueger Schwanke. “They were hosting, they had a big crowd of noisy fans, and they are a team that is well known and respected for having a great defence system. But the Gee-Gees stayed calm. We knew what we had to do in order to win that match, and all the excitement of being so close to the semi-finals made us go through the third set.”

The Gee-Gees then played an intense five-set match against the University of Alberta Pandas, losing the final set by a mere 15-12. According to Woods, the close scores proved the Gee-Gees were there to compete and that they could go head to head with a strong western conference team like the Pandas.

“The Pandas game was my favourite,” said Weihrer. “The Sherbrooke game meant more, because it decided that we were top four, which was amazing, but the Pandas game was just volleyball. They’re an amazing team, and a big team. They’re hard-hitting, and they want to play a fast game. I was so lucky to be able to experience that kind of game before graduating.”

The Gees then lost 3-0 to the Trinity Western University Spartans, earning them the fourth-place spot. Unfortunately, Schwanke injured her knee during the second set just after scoring a point for the Gee-Gees. She has since undergone X-rays, but it is unclear whether she has a full ACL tear. Schwanke and Woods both said they hope she will be back in the game as soon as possible.

As for expectations of the team next year, Woods said the plan is to remember the past, but not to live there. He hopes next year’s team will build on this year’s success in the same way that this year’s team has built on previous years.

“We have a lot of success to point to,” he said. “These are the standards we plan to live by. This didn’t just happen, it’s been a decade of day-by-day getting there. It was a consistent performance all year long. We’ve got to make sure that our kids know they did something all year long to get to that level.”

“We just felt an insane amount of support,” added Weihrer. “We always have support from our friends and family, but I think one of the really cool things about this weekend was the support we got from the Gee-Gees community.”

“No words can describe how happy and proud I am of my team,” said Schwanke. “We know that what we did is huge and that the coming season will give two Ontario teams a chance to go to nationals. It didn’t come easy, but it was worth every extra drop of sweat.”