The University of Manitoba women’s volleyball team will have some familiar faces return to lead the team this season. Caleigh Dobie and Sarah Klassen are returning as captains, and first year Kearley Abbott is new for this year.
Dobie is a fifth year libero who was a part of the Bisons CIS (now U Sports) championship-winning team in 2013-14. She struggled with injury for parts of last season, but still managed to play 15 of 24 games and averaged 3.09 digs per set.
Klassen is also in her fifth year and was a captain last season as well. The six-foot blocker finished with 104 kills last year and, like Dobie, was also a part of that championship-winning team in 2013-14.
“Sarah is just a girl that takes the rest of the players under her wing and Caleigh gives her all in the weight room everyday despite some injuries,” first-year head coach Jon Hykawy said.
“With both of them being captains last season, there was no doubt we would have them back this year. They show tremendous leadership skills both on and off the court.”
Abbott, the rookie right side hitter, is a bit of surprise to be given the responsibility at the tender age of 18 and not having too much U Sports experience under her belt. Hykawy is confident the responsibility won’t hinder her play.
“She is a very intense competitor, and brings a lot of intensity and emotion to the game,” he said. “I think she’ll be a great captain of the future, she knows how to handle that pressure and [being named a captain] won’t add any pressure to her.”
The Bisons are a relatively young team, and Hykawy is confident that these girls will help lead this team to the playoffs.
“They’re three important players to our team,” he said. “We’re a really young team – I want us to feel like we belong.”
That feeling of belonging wasn’t present last season, as the Bisons struggled for most of the year and finished second last with an abysmal 3-21 record. Despite not being around the team too much last season, Hykawy is going to leave last year in the past.
“We were really young last season,” he said. “I have 13 players that can step on the court and play. We’re going to play with a lot of energy and be aggressive, we’re going to serve hard, which is probably a little different than what they have done in the past.”
The Bisons have plenty of optimism for this season, and will attempt to reach the playoffs this season.
“Obviously our goal is to make the playoffs,” Hykaway said. “Is that realistic? We’ll take it one game at a time. I believe we can. This is one of the closest teams I’ve ever coached, they get along really, really well.”
The Bisons have not gotten off to their ideal start, but will hope to turn it around at home against the Regina Cougars on Nov. 4-5 at Investors Group Athletic Centre.