It’s not everyday a coach’s recruiting class includes two former national champions.
But that is the case for the University of Manitoba women’s volleyball head coach Ken Bentley, who welcomes back Brittany Habing and Emily Erickson. Both Habing and Erickson were a part of Manitoba’s national championship winning team in 2014.
After taking a couple years off, Erickson is recharged and is ready to win another championship.
“I’ve never felt so driven in my life. When I first left I thought I couldn’t do it again just because of how burnt out I was,” she said. “I just feel that break has done everything for me, it’s made me come back with a brand new passion for the sport.”
With her time off, Habing has been able to reflect on the national championship winning season, and is excited to bring that experience to this year’s Bison team.
“You take for granted just how cool it was,” she said. “So looking back now and even talking with some of the girls and them asking how it was, or what is involved. It’s super cool to have that under my belt and bring that forward with the team […]that experience will be cool for the season.”
Bentley, who was on leave last season, said both players reached out to him during the winter expressing their desire to play.
“If I didn’t think they would fit with our group, I wouldn’t have said yes,” he said. “It had to be a fit, and I felt both of them could be a really good fit for this team kind of where we are and the evolution of this team.”
Habing, the 25-year-old native of East St. Paul, originally came to the Bisons after transferring from crosstown rivals, the University of Winnipeg Wesmen. Habing was selected to play on the U SPORTS Championship All-Star team in 2014. She was also named a Canada West second team all-star in 2013-14, named Bison female athlete of the year in 2014, and was a top eight U SPORTS Academic All Canadian.
Habing had practiced with the team during last season when they needed an extra setter, which made her realize how much she missed volleyball.
“I contacted Ken and I just said ‘Would you be interested in me, and allow me to come back for my fifth year?’” she said. “Being back in the gym now it’s like ‘why did I ever leave this?’ It’s such a cool group to come back to because they’re all super hard-working and we’re all on the same page with the same goal.”
Erickson comes back to Manitoba as one of the elite middles in the country. She was ninth in the Canada West in 2013-14, averaging 1.05 a set. She was also a U SPORTS Academic All Canadian in 2013-14.
Erickson trained with the U18 Bison team all winter, and she was able to prove to Bentley that she was ready for another year with the herd.
“I showed him I was ready and capable to do this, and afterwards he was so welcoming and so supportive and he’s really supported me in this entire journey and really believed in me,” she said.
With the addition of Habing and Erickson, Bentley said it puts the Bisons in a position to challenge the top teams in the country,
“Now it elevates our opportunity to elevate at a higher level, and to really legitimately challenge the top teams in the country and have pretty high expectations,” he said.
“We would’ve been a good team regardless, this just makes us better.”