The Memorial Sea-Hawks women’s volleyball team fell just short of their first Atlantic University Sport (AUS) conference title in 16 years. Despite a perfect home record and a number of all-star performances, the second seed Sea-Hawks fell to the Dalhousie Tigers in the conference final 3-1.
To get to the final, Memorial had to turn aside the hosting Acadia Axewomen, no easy feat in front of the raucous crowd. The Sea-Hawks had to come from behind down 13-12, putting together a run of points that saw them claw their way back to a 24-all tie. AUS MVP Jill Snow and player of the game Miya Westwood saw out the set from there, with crucial kills to hand MUN the 26-24 victory. Acadia seemed totally deflated following the narrow loss in the first set, getting behind 15-3 in short order. Acadia coach Michelle Wood was forced to take her players aside for an earful, inspiring them to charge back to a 17-23 set score, before an Acadia service error gifted AUS Rookie of the Year Kiersten Fey the opportunity to hit the winning kill for Memorial. Facing a must-win scenario in the final set, the Axewomen threw everything at the Sea-Hawks in hopes of unsettling their concerted and comfortable play. The Axewomen would take a brief 19-17 lead after being tied at 17, but the Sea-Hawks took the game by the horns once more from there, not looking back to sweep the game with a 25-22 victory in set three. 11 service errors dug the Axewomen into a hole too deep to emerge from, while Memorial did not waste chances, posting a hit efficiency of 0.212 compared to Acadia’s 0.083.
Before the final, Coach Slauenwhite heaped praise on his players, correctly predicting Jill Snow’s MVP honors, noting the adversity Snow had overcome to become one of the conference’s finest. “Jill has been an excellent leader for our team on and off the court. Last year she played through a tough injury and she was still an AUS First-Team All-Star. This season, Jill has taken her game to the next level, and is a strong front runner for the AUS League MVP leading the league in almost every statistical category.” Snow is the program’s first AUS MVP since Susan Mosher in the 1999-00 season.
Slauenwhite said that Snow’s most important quality was her ability to make her teammates better, a sterling quality of a true leader. Asked about the prospect of facing Dalhousie, who proved a real bogey as the only AUS side to avoid defeat to the Sea-Hawks this season, Slauenwhite was optimistic. “Dalhousie is a tough team, but it’s a challenge and we like the idea of playing them one more time this season. We made some excellent adjustments after our first match against Dalhousie and it helped us play a better match the second time around. We’ve made some adjustments at practice and we will work on a few more that will help us challenge for the title.”
It was relatively easy for the experienced Tigers, seeking their fourth straight AUS title, to impose their will on the Sea-Hawks early. With identical 25-16 defeats in the first two sets and chasing large leads, Memorial seemed to have it all to do heading into the third and potentially title-deciding set. With their backs against the wall, Memorial were able to take the third set from the Tigers, with Sea-Hawk Krista Hogan (later named player of the game) and opponent Marisa Mota making several crucial digs for their sides. Sadly, Memorial’s season would end on a sour note as the Tigers regained control with a decisive 25-17 fourth set victory. The eight-ranked Tigers will head to the national competition in Brandon, Manitoba later this month.
Despite the loss, Slauenwhite says the team achieved what it set out to do from the season’s beginning in capturing a top two seed in the conference, but is disappointed not to have brought home the silverware. Slauenwhite added that the foundation is there for the team to move forward as a perennial conference threat. “Growing as student-athletes (willingness to make changes), being students of the game, trusting each other and their coaches has helped the team move forward as a top team in the AUS.” Though the team will have to replace some graduating veteran leaders such as Hogan, the majority of the team remains young and eager to succeed. Impressive rookie star turns such as Westwood and Sarah Dawe should help keep the team in contention for many seasons to come.