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Sunday, May. 19, 2019
The excitement that builds for OCAA provincials
by Randy Pascal

More than a quarter century into his tenure as head coach of the Cambrian Golden Shield women’s volleyball team, Dale Beausoleil has no issue getting amped for the OCAA championships, even with a young team that has little to no point of reference from which to share his enthusiasm.

“I’m excited, all of my assistants are excited, but I’m not sure how the girls are,” he said following practice on Tuesday. “This is a crew that has no idea about what provincials are. They have no clue. They still don’t understand what it is.”

Come late Friday, in Sudbury, this squad that boasts only one player who has attended an OCAA championship (Emily Clark) will find out exactly what lies in store. A soon-to-be graduate of the Dental Hygiene program and top ten scorer in the OCAA, Clark understands that there is a bit of a give and take to the 2019 tournament, in particular.

“Provincials is a lot more of an intimidating experience, so I will be prepared for that,” said the graduate of Lasalle Secondary. “It helps with it being at home, because we are a lot more comfortable here. The last couple of weeks, we’ve been practicing full court, so that we get a lot better feel for the court.”

All of the practice in the world, however, is not about to offset the reality check that is a regular season record of 4-14 for the Golden Shield. The fact is that this team would not be competing among the final eight, if not for their role as host. And while that might mean that an end goal of celebrating a podium finish on home court is likely somewhat far-fetched, it does not mean that the event is without positive takeaways for this fledgling group.

“The benefit, I feel, is that we are going to play with best of the best,” noted freshman starter Marissa Beeson. “We’re going to grow from that, experience how good the players are, what level we need to get to in order to play with them.”

This Cambrian team is woefully light on collegiate experience, but none moreso than Beeson, a graduate of Confederation Secondary last June. Despite playing with the Northern Chill Volleyball Club for several years, Beeson was uncertain of her interest in taking her game to the next level, joining the team only after the completing of her first semester in December.

“I missed it a lot, being part of something, part of a team,” she said. “I think being away made me realize how much I actually missed it. For me, it was a matter of blending it in with school, making sure that you have enough time to do everything. Volleyball is a big commitment.”

Emily Clark has been in her shoes. The hard-hitting right side is the only player scheduled to graduate from the 2018-2019 roster. “I do feel a lot more experienced, a lot more confident when I am on the court – but my body is broken.” Battling both shin splints and back issues, she admits to not yet feeling touched by the tinge of nostalgia.

“I think it will hit me afterwards, just because I am the only one graduating, so there’s no one else to kind of experience this with,” said Clark. Still, she will leave a team that, she feels, is headed in the right direction.

“They have a lot of potential. From the start of the year to now, we’re a lot better. It’s been fun to see us all grow and improve and get better at everything. When we do play well, it’s fun to see everyone get so excited, really get into it.”

New Liskeard native and Golden Shield rookie Maggie Little is in the majority, yet another newcomer who is thankful for the opportunity to build on what has been a season of transition for a young lady whose volleyball experience was limited to only the high school setting, prior to arriving in Sudbury.

“I am just excited to see all of the teams that we haven’t played yet, and playing against them to see how we do,” said Little. “This is a lot faster than I thought it was going to be. I didn’t realize how fast it actually was, and how good all of the girls are. At the beginning of the season, I couldn’t even run an “A” (middle quick). Now, I’m running all of the different plays.”

With more of her Shield career hopefully ahead than behind her, Little echoes the thoughts of her teammates, drawing plenty from a tournament setting that will be extremely challenging, to say the least. “We’ll get to experience this together, and grow as a team from this experience, to know what it’s like to have been to provincials.”

With the wisdom that comes from decades of involvement, Beausoleil sincerely hopes that the effects run even deeper. “I want them to get excited about volleyball, I want them to get excited about provincials,” he said. “We were lucky enough to get to provincials this year just because we are hosting.”

“I want that drive to want to get to provincials next year on our own. I want that work ethic to be installed, understanding what we have to do to get there and compete.”

Come this weekend, even just competing will be no easy task. The Cambrian women will open play opposite the Durham Lords, a team which posted a record of 18-0 in regular season play.

“They remind me a little bit of Niagara, just because of their height - they’re pretty big,” said Beausoleil. “We are going to serve well and we’re going to have to pass well, and we’ve been struggling with our passing, our serve receive. That is our weakest part of our game. We’re going to have to serve receive decently to have a chance to attack the ball against them.”

And the coach, for one, is excited to see how this all plays out.

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