Revisiting the old stomping grounds

It has been suggested that nowhere is the alumni affiliation with a post-secondary institution stronger than with the varsity athletes that donned their school colours, combining their academic pursuits with the love of sport.

Scour any of the gymnasiums at the three local venues during an OCAA or OUA encounter and it’s not all that difficult to pick out the former college and university sport participants in the crowd. In fact, it was double-whammy time Saturday at Cambrian, with both the women’s and men’s volleyball teams in action versus the St Clair Saints.

Now in their mid-twenties, Stephanie Walker and Dakota Campbell know exactly what it’s like to be out on the court, both members of their respective volleyball squads during their time at Cambrian College. This past weekend, the pair was in attendance at the games, along with their daughters, Kaydyn (3 years old) and Leylah (nine months).

“I’ve got a lot of memories of my playing time here,” Walker confessed. “I miss it a lot. That’s why we come to watch it. I’m still friends with all of the girls that I played with.” Having moved back to Capreol after spending a year or so in Sault Ste Marie, the 27 year old graduate of the Fitness & Leisure Management and Business Administration programs acknowledges a very special connection with the man who remains in charge of the Cambrian women’s team.

“I always like to say hi to Dale (Beausoleil),” she said. “It’s his personality, his coaching style – he’s just a very likeable person. I think he’s the best coach ever, and I don’t think anybody compares. He’s funny, but when it comes down to getting to business, he wants to win.”

Over time, however, the faces of the athletes on the court morph through increasingly smaller phases of familiarity. “I don’t really know the girls any more, but everyone looks so young,” Walker said with a laugh. “It’s hard to compare how I think I was when I played with how they are now.”

That is central to the dilemma her fiancé faces while watching the team he once played for. “As you get older, you get more critical about how the game is played, a little more judgmental probably,” Campbell conceded. “But it’s still nice to see young guys coming up, still playing.”

Like most who were involved heavily in sport, the graduate of Confederation Secondary Schooladmitted that far more of the memories that linger have far less to do with the on-court proceedings he experienced as a member of the Golden Shield family. “It’s definitely the social aspect,” said Campbell. “As you get older, you think back about it, the friends you made and the good times you had.”

Anyone in particular?

Chris Borrie,” he answered. “He’s quite the character, could always make you laugh. He could always bring up the energy on the team.” Campbell and Walker still venture out for the occasional volleyball tournament, competing in either co-ed divisions, or separately with friends on entries with their respective gender.

That’s when the reminders slide over, punctuating the point that their playing days are now behind them, at least to a certain extent. “The muscle soreness is tough,” said Campbell. “You’re done after a weekend. You’re good for a couple of games, but dead for the playoffs. The game itself all comes back. You’re just a little rusty, not as accurate on most movements. But the whole game comes back after a while – it’s like riding a bike.”

As for the bicycle that is the current edition of the Cambrian women’s volleyball team, they blew a bit of a tire in a couple of aspects of their game on Saturday, despite coming through with a much better effort in a 21-25, 27-29, 23-25 loss to St Clair than when the teams initially met earlier this season in Windsor.

“We played much better today, however we missed 17 serves,” stressed Beausoleil. “We’ve been working a lot on our serving, so that was a little disappointing. And I really didn’t think we did a great job with our free ball passing. Instead of being in system, a lot of times we were out of system, where it’s just one hitter instead of three hitters.”

As for the positive takeaways, the lifelong educator had no issue pin-pointing the offensive highlights for his team. “We hit really well,” he said. “Against St Clair, it’s about smart hitting with our left sides. Because their block is so big, it’s about trying to use her rather than trying to go through her.”

Overall, Beausoleil had relatively few issues with a stretch that would see his team register a big four set win, on the road, over the Redeemer Royals last weekend, right on the heels of a strong performance at a tournament at Durham College to open 2018. “We had a great showing at Durham, finishing fourth, but we served really well,” he said.

“I wouldn’t say it was the best volleyball we’ve played, but it was a lot of matches in a short period of time, and they were all best of fives. Emily (Clark) was really sick when we were there, we were without Kendra (Muffo), so people were playing different positions. Jade (Gauthier) played really well. She played left side, Hayley (Chisholm) played right side. They were all pretty sore when it was all said and done.”

As for the men’s game, the Saints topped the Shield 25-13, 25-17, 25-19, as the homeside again had trouble generating a consistent attack from anyone other than Lucas Claveau. The Hornepayne native finished the match with eight kills, with Mike Aiabens, Mitchell Reid and Cole Krassey all tied for second with two kills apiece. Both teams see action twice this week, heading across town to face the Collège Boréal Vipères on Wednesday evening, and then taking to the road, in earnest, on Saturday, tackling the Mohawk Mountaineers.