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It’s been said that teamwork is the beauty of sport. For Hannah Shortreed, the Thunderwolves women’s volleyball team’s veteran setter, that might ring true.
“I’m really looking forward to being back on the court with the team,” she says. “Setter is an interesting position and integrated position, but it isn’t any more important than any other position. We’re a team and we all have to function together.”
As Lakehead women’s volleyball is poised to return to the Thunderdome tonight for the first regular season action since the pandemic put play on hold, Virginie Franks, another veteran leader, is reflecting on what teamwork means both on and off the court.
“During the pandemic, we really relied on each other for support,” she says. “We tried to keep each other accountable for practices and workouts when we could, even at-home workouts.”
For Shortreed, the return to play marks the culmination of a process.
“I’m really looking forward to our home games,” she says. “During the pandemic I had a lot time to sit and think about the year ahead, and so far it’s been everything I wanted it to be. We’re really loving the new coach and the team dynamic.”
Lakehead hasn’t played an OUA game since mid-February of 2020, but this current squad looks quite a bit different from the team that finished that season 2-17. A set of new coaches in Vanessa Chorkawy and Brett Hagarty and a whole host of departures and additions mark the roster. For the program, the changes offers new opportunities to build.
“I was part of the committee when we were looking for a coach, and we were looking long-term,” veteran libero Rebekah Hara says. “Vanessa and Brett are deeply rooted together—they have the same philosophies. We’re really excited to work with Vanessa and we love Brett already and I think our leadership is helping get our team through this transition period.”
For the Thunderwolves the veteran leadership of Shortreed, Franks, and Hara is invaluable. Shortreed provides steady precision from the setter position, Franks is the excitable hitter who punctuates play with her booming spikes, and Hara is the libero whose consistent confidence backs the team’s defensive efforts.
But for the trio, their leadership has come in a new way—tenures that have seen cancelled seasons and physical isolation.
“During the pandemic I had a lot time to sit and think about the year ahead,” Shortreed says. “So far this year has been everything I wanted it to be. We’re really loving the new coach and the team dynamic.”
“We really relied on each other for support,” Franks adds. “It was a complicated time, and so there were a lot of opportunities for me to assume a leadership role. I think I got a lot of experience even though we didn’t play much. We still contacted each other, talked with each other.”
So what does the season hold? A slightly condensed schedule of 14 games beginning this weekend, with the Thunderwolves facing the visiting McMaster Marauders tonight and tomorrow at 7:00pm. The home team returns to Thunder Bay for two additional weekends of action on their own court in the new year.
“I’m really excited to just work well together as a unit, to see how far we go and how far we can push ourselves,” Shortreed says.
“I know we’ll play hard together,” Franks adds. “We’ve been practicing hard, and I hope that all that effort comes through to our games.”
The Thunderwolves come into the season looking to capitalize off a dominating preseason weekend in which the hosted the Providence Pilots.
“I’m super excited,” Franks says. “A little nervous, but it will be fun to hear the crowd and having people supporting so that’s going to be very exciting to see the energy.”
“I love playing in front of our home crowd,” Hara adds. “Thunder Bay always brings a lot of people—there’s a good volleyball community here.”
Thunderwolves volleyball action begins Friday, November 5th at 7:00pm and the two teams will face off again on Saturday, November 6th also at 7:00pm.