Perfect 10: Cougars women’s volleyball catch fire early on
By Dan Khavkin, Sports Editor
No Mount Royal Cougars varsity program has started a season 10-0 since joining USPORTS in 2012… until this year.
The MRU women’s volleyball program caught fire early in the 2019/2020 Canada West season heading into their final weekend set this semester.
It’s been pure dominance. The Cougars have won 30-6 sets this season while sporting the undefeated record.
The Cougars also cracked the national top five for the first time in program history and became the second Mount Royal club to do so since the legendary 2018/2019 run of the men’s volleyball team last year.
“We’ve been playing some really good ball,” says women’s volleyball head coach Sandra Lamb on the brightest start to Cougars history.
Lamb explains the older girls in her core have been light out in doing their job.
“It comes back to the chemistry we added and the years of experience carrying over the years,” she says.
MRU women’s volleyball program was an odd case where the Cougars saw early success when they joined the university ranks.
The Cougars cracked the national top 10 in their inaugural season before seeing a dip in that standard. Since then, MRU have reached playoffs as the last seed their last four seasons.
Lamb believes past veteran players retiring due to injury has been one of the reasons the program had lapses in chemistry during those middle-years.
“The rotation of older players just wasn’t there. The chemistry and comfortability of the two squads from the early years to today is very comparable,” Lamb says.
But the big elephant in the room remains: Is there a loss coming?
“We can’t think about that. We just need to keep playing our game,” Lamb says.
“We’re fortunate to sit at 10-0 but it’s 0-0 every weekend. In the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter. You have to prove your way into the playoffs and perform on those weekends later on.”
The older girls are also doing what is needed from them in terms of leadership on the court with their play and off of it, according to Lamb.
“Every weekend is a grind in this league. The girls are the ones making the changes and doing what they have to do. Everyone buying in makes everything flow.”
They’ve been clinical with their two-way play which already proves to be an early key to dominance.
“Everyone is doing their job and it shows,” Lamb says.
This year’s recruiting class has also been a major cog in the MRU system.
Lamb continues: “We want depth and it’s kind of a nightmare. We have players in good places who can play at any moment of the game.
“They have the opportunity of learning and not getting thrown into the fire.”
Meanwhile, second-year middle Dholi Thokbuom sits in fourth place with a .321 hitting total in the conference. She also dominates the other side of the net, posting a second-best 1.31 blocks per set so far this season.
Thokbuom spent her summer with the Next-Gen Team Canada volleyball program.
“Being able to be there and focus solely on volleyball and then bring that experience here is huge for her and for us,” Lamb says.
Outside-hitter and senior Chantal Park is first-place in Canada West with a .80 count in service aces per set.
“In her fifth-year, she’s taken her game into the next level. She’s doing everything we need her to do,” Lamb says praising her senior.
Third-year setter Quinn Pelland sits in second-place with 9.57 assists per set.
MRU sits in second with 442 total kills but averages a conference second-best 12.28 kills per set while also sitting in second with total digs at 542.
“The confidence and ability to hold each other accountable has been a big part of our success,” Lamb says.