Cambrian Golden Shield women’s volleyball coach Dale Beausoleil is excited at the prospect of returning the bulk of his starting lineup from one year ago, all while adding talented rookie Isabelle Rivest and Georgian transfer Brianne Berriault to the mix.
None of this, however, makes the goal of reaching the playoffs in the dogfight that is the OCAA West Division any easier to navigate.
“The West is dynamite,” acknowledged Beausoleil, entering his 28th season at the helm of the Golden Shield. “We’re in for a tough ride. It’s going to be a battle, again, just to make the playoffs.”
Still, a starting seven (libero included) of Jillian Vallier, Kendra Muffo, Hayley Chisholm, Amanda Kring, Emily Clark, Rivest and Berriault has all the makings of a group that Beausoleil can work with, well known for his ability to mold enthusiastic coachable talent into a medal contending team by the middle of February.
“We’ve improved a lot on our serve receive,” said Beausoleil. “We’re not out of system as much, there’s not as many aces. That’s improving, and that’s huge. If we can continue to improve on serve receive, it gives us a chance.” Conversely, the multi OCAA Coach of the Year recipient acknowledged that there are plenty of teaching opportunities available when his team starts play with the ball in their hands.
“We’ve got quite a ways to go with our serving,” said Beausoleil. “We always have to serve tough, because we’re a smaller team, to try and get the opponents out of system. I think we’re number one or number two in the league for missing serves, our errors, so we have some work to do with serving.”
Beausoleil also has some tinkering to do with his lineup, with the graduation of middle Kailey Bastien creating the need to slide part-time middle but primary right side Emily Clark over to her left, just a touch. “For Emily, it’s coming, but it’s a brand new position,” he noted. “Playing right side and middle are two totally different things.”
“I’m hoping that by the end of the year, she’s loving her new role in the middle.” Interestingly enough, it might well be the added versatility at the disposal of Beausoleil this year that is allowing the coach to examine all options. A setter through much of her club experience in Sturgeon Falls and North Bay, Rivest provides a classic example.
“We wanted to see where she would fit best with the team, because she definitely has to be on the court,” suggested Beausoleil. “She’s extremely talented – it was a matter of what is our best lineup with her.” Like most good coaches, the long-time elementary educator prefers to build a system around the talent that surrounds him, rather than force square pegs into round holes.
“Normally, we only have three players that are receiving,” said Beausoleil. “This year, we have four. Normally, right sides don’t pass, but Isabelle is a good passer. It’s a different look from what we normally have. If we are struggling, we are able to do different things with four passers instead of three.”
But as key as the college freshman is to the mix, there is no doubt that the on-going development of the “big five” will make or break Cambrian’s post season aspirations. “Hayley is having a great season,” noted Beausoleil. “This is the best I have ever seen Hayley play.”
And a newcomer to the role of setter just two years ago, Muffo has tapped into some elite natural athleticism, gradually integrating all of the nuances that accompany the job as de-facto floor general, parlaying a better understanding of the need to create mismatches for her attackers into a team that can go toe to toe with the top end squads in the province.
Boasting a current record of 2-2, the Shield swept past both the Boréal Vipères and Conestoga Condors, but had the tables turned by the Fanshawe Falcons, and went five tough sets in a loss to the Niagara Knights. “I was quite pleased with Niagara, I was extremely pleased,” said Beausoleil of the 27-29, 25-21, 29-27, 13-25, 10-15 setback.
“They won bronze last year. They’re strong, and this is the first time we’ve taken them to five sets in a long time.” Rounding out the 2017-2018 roster for the Cambrian women’s volleyball crew are Jade Gauthier, Brooke Whitteker, Teagan Langis, Kayla Wandziak and Alyssa Short. With the first three joining Rivest in the rookie class this fall, Beausoleil knew that a little patience would be required.
“It’s a drastic change playing in the OCAA as opposed to high school,” he said. “There’s still a big difference, and I have some that didn’t play club, so they’re a little further behind. It’s just a process and it takes time.”
The locals picked up a win in their only match of the weekend, taking down Conestoga 25-18, 25-16, 25-21. Chisholm and Rivest would lead the Cambrian attack with 14 and 10 kills respectively, while Karis Mapp topped the charts for the Condors with an even dozen.
The Conestoga men earned a split for the visitors Saturday in Sudbury, taking down the Cambrian lads 25-13, 25-15, 25-18. Lucas Claveau led all hitters with eight kills, as both teams substituted regularly, Golden Shield coach Tom Sutton finding a way to create some court time for all twelve of his players that were dressed for this encounter.
Both teams are back at home for each of the next two weekends, welcoming the Redeemer Royals to the Nickel City this Friday, while the Mohawk Mountaineers make a trek north on November 18th.