Fifth-year setter Kira Tome (centre) is a veteran anchor of a rebuilding Gee-Gees team. Photo: Remi Yuan.
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Comeback year is key for Gee-Gees as they tread waters in a new conference

Last year didn’t go the way the women’s volleyball team would have liked. After years of being a constant playoff contender in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA), the Gee-Gees finished the year 11–8, a record that was just barely enough to help them make the playoffs.

Unfortunately, a first-round matchup against the powerhouse Toronto Varsity Blues lead to an early playoff exit, and the team falling short of a national tournament appearance.

This year, the Gees have new opportunities and a new conference to contend with. The team will be playing in the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) this year, sharing the division with highly competitive teams like Montreal, McGill, Sherbrooke, Laval, and Université du Québec à Montréal.

Entering the season, the Gees will be dealing with one significant loss to graduation.

Starting middle Alix Durivage played in her fifth and final year of eligibility last season. She was a massive part of the team, particularly last year, and will be a difficult loss to replace.

Aside from the loss of Durivage, the Gees core remains intact from last year. Fourth-year stars Kaly Soro and Mezi Tamrat will anchor the sides of the front row.

In fact, the team has also made some key additions to their line-up that is sure to bolster their chances of success.

Star middle Dana Bulloch, a product of Toronto Phoenix Volleyball Club, stands at six-feet and one-inch, and will likely get her fair share of opportunities to play this season.

Kaiva Mateus, entering her first year of a Education and Counselling master’s degree at the U of O, brings some much-needed experience to this year’s line-up, having played professional volleyball in Europe.

Head coach Lionel Woods is now entering his 28th year with the Gee-Gees, with 24 as head coach and four as an assistant. Woods brings top-notch coaching and stability to the team, particularly as they attempt to return to dominance.

The Gee-Gees recently had an opportunity to test drive their new line-up at the annual Pre-Season Classic tournament on Oct. 1 and 2, where they finished sixth out of 10 teams. The team showed promise in their victory over Acadia, and a tough battle with eventual tournament champion University of British Columbia Okanagan.

Despite the disappointing finish, fifth-year Gees setter Kira Tome was named to the tournament All-Star team.

The good news for the Gees going forward is that  they are a young team with experience in the right places. Mateus and Tome are the only two fifth-year players, and the majority of their core is only in their second or third year of eligibility.

With another year of experience under their belts, and with the additions of Bulloch and Mateus helping to make up for the loss of Durivage, the hope is that this young team can take the next step forward this year.

The Gees will open their regular season with a pair of home games on Oct. 21 and 22 against McGill and Sherbrooke. The games will get underway in the gym at Montpetit Hall at 7 p.m. and 6 p.m., respectively.