Cougars Dholi Thokbuom and Quinn Pelland among top Canadian women’s volleyball players in 2020
By George Potter, Staff Writer
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020-21 U SPORTS and Canada West volleyball seasons have been cancelled. The cancellations have caused hardships for athletes, coaches and schools alike. However, for two Mount Royal University Cougars players, the season is not completely lost. Quinn Pelland and Dholi Thokbuom were given the opportunity to train at Volleyball Canada’s Women’s Full-time Training Centre (FTC) in Richmond, B.C. in November and December 2020.
The FTC is set up to provide National Team players a place to safely train and compete during the pandemic. Whether it’s between professional contracts or during the university season, top athletes have been able to gather in Richmond and continue improving despite the current restrictions across the country.
In the 2019-20 season, Pelland and Thokboum had remarkable seasons as key contributors to the Cougars’ 21-2 record and Canada West bronze medal win. Thokboum led the conference with a hitting percentage of 0.386. She also made the Canada West first all-star team along with being named a U SPORTS second-team All-Canadian. Pelland, meanwhile, set a Cougars’ season record by putting up the most assists per match with 9.7.
Despite one of the greatest seasons in Cougars Athletics history, COVID-19 caused the season to take a disappointing and devastating turn when the National Championships, set to be held at the University of Calgary, were cancelled before the start of the tournament. With the Cougars qualifying as one of the eight teams to compete at nationals, the team felt this cancellation harder than most..
“I think [the goal] for the team definitely is to qualify for nationals again,” says Thokbuom, hoping for another chance once the team returns.
“It was a little bittersweet to finally qualify for the first time in our history, and then have it taken away so abruptly.”
Being away from Calgary during their time at the FTC, both players had to face the challenge of completing online classes while training on the court with other top players in Canada. Luckily, both players said that their coaches and professors were very understanding about the situation.
“I was super fortunate that my profs were really accommodating, and were really willing to help me and appreciated the experience and the opportunity I was given,” said Pelland.
As the two Cougars weren’t the only university athletes training at the FTC, a handful of other athletes were balancing athletics and academics alongside them.
“[The professors] were really lenient with allowing missed classes and things like that, so that was really helpful and I was appreciative of that,” said Thokbuom
“But, my coaches were also super understanding too because we had a bunch of players on the team who were still working and also in school, so it wasn’t something that was too stressful to deal with.”
Coming back to Mount Royal University after spending time around other top players and national team experience, Thokbuom and Pelland will be able to share some of the lessons they learned at the FTC with their Cougars’ teammates.
“Being in this sport, you’re going to be coached by a lot of different people who go by different values, and they teach the game in different ways. I think it’s really important to be malleable in that sense,” said Thokboum.
One thing that may help the pair step up as leaders when the Cougars get back on the court is their ability to build relationships with different players.
“Learning how to play with new players is really cool,” said Pelland. “It was another good learning experience and something to bring back [to Mount Royal] because we have new players every year. So transferring that in and getting stronger at building those relationships was really beneficial.”