May 29th, 2024

Kodiaks serving up depth

By Dale Woodard on November 12, 2021.

So who can you expect to see in the Lethbridge College Kodiaks women’s volleyball team’s starting lineup?

Good question.

However, as the Kodiaks venture into their Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference season, it’s a question head coach Anna Schwark and the rest of her team will happily address on a night-to-night basis as needed.

As the Kodiaks take the Val Matteotti Gymnasium court for their ACAC home opener tonight at 8 p.m. against the Red Deer Polytechnic Queens, they do so with a bench chock full of players who can be sent in at any moment.

Or, as the case may be, just start the game.

“We’ve done a lot of equal play because our bench is just so deep this year,” said Schwark. “The last two years have been the strongest recruiting classes yet. So practices have been really fun. We have a ton of competition for spots and I think that has been really motivating.”

That sits perfectly fine with fourth-year Kodiaks left side Mack Lewicki, one of three fourth-year Kodiaks alongside setter Jamie Brown and middle Claire Armstrong.

“The younger girls coming in, we have two years of rookies and they’re really improving every day,” said Lewicki, who hails from Taber. “I think with our starting six, you never know who’s going to be out there just because everybody is playing so well.

“I love that, I love being challenged in practice. I’d rather have the person on the other side challenging me every practice and me still fighting for my spot instead of just assuming I’m playing on the weekend. I think any of the girls have the opportunity to play this year, whereas in years past we haven’t had that opportunity. So it’s really exciting. I keep getting better because of them and we just keep pushing ourselves.”

After losing the 2020-21 season to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kodiaks return to the floor tonight, in front of fans, no less.

“It’s great. It feels a little surreal,” said Schwark. “The last year went by so slowly and we just had so much to deal with, getting our hopes up and having things fall through in terms of getting to practice and having a real season.”

So I think we all realize how grateful we are. We’re going to be nervous, but I think we’re all really excited and so happy to be out there and show what we’ve been working on for the last year.”

And they’ll get to do that on home court tonight.

“I think we’re just excited to get back on the court and be in the home gym and play in front of fans again,” said Lewicki. “I’ve waited 20 months to be back in the gym, so it’s nice to just finally get that feeling and opportunity again.

“I think the vibe is going to be exciting. I think the girls are going to be nervous just because we haven’t been able to perform in two years. But it’s going to be fun. I think it’s going to be crazy, but it’s going to be fun.”

The last Kodiaks home game was Feb. 22, 2020, a 3-0 win over the Briercrest Clippers that ended Lethbridge’s season at 9-15, narrowly missing the playoffs.

“I’m so excited and I know the girls are thrilled,” said Schwark. “I don’t really remember what a home game was like and now that we can have fans, I think it’s totally going to change the game for us. It’s going to feel like we’re at home and we have that support. It’ll be fun to be able to interact with the Lethbridge volleyball community more and have them support us. We’re so excited.”

After that 9-15 season, Schwark said she felt the 2020-21 season was going to Kodiaks year before the pandemic sidelined it.

The Kodiaks head coach now brings that optimism into the new season.

“I fully anticipate making it to the championship, whatever (the) format,” said Schwark. “I think we’ll be there and I think we can medal. I think the team is a lot more cohesive and connected than we have been. And no doubt, we are the fittest and most athletic we’ve been since I started here, so it’s all coming together.”

After tonight’s game, the Kodiaks women’s and men’s teams head to Red Deer for the rematch Sunday.

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