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Coutu and Canadore come together in the end
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When a pass is just off the mark, the setter will adjust.

When the set is not exactly where the hitter might like it, the attacker will alter their swing, finding a way to make due.

With years of experience on the volleyball court, soon-to-be Coll├Ęge Notre-Dame graduate Emma Coutu has learned to roll with the punches, to pivot, when needed, long before this became the word of the day.

So when plans for a university education, initially, at a school without a varsity volleyball program suddenly shifted, leaning her now towards the Biotechnology - Technician course at Canadore College, Coutu felt compelled to investigate whether sport could still be part of the mix.

This despite the fact that she had backed away from club ball this year, suiting up only with the CND Alouettes, not necessarily the ideal game plan from anyone with hopes of being recruited to the post-secondary ranks.

"I made a video of game film of myself from the high-school season and reached out to the coach (Andrew Nicholson) and sent it to him, just to see where I stood," said Coutu, who had competed for many years with the Northern Chill Volleyball Club, even slipping in one season spent with a North Bay based crew.

"Luckily, he was interested and that's when things kind of took off."

The 18 year old local product who has spent time both as an outside hitter and also a libero was one of five new commitments confirmed by the Canadore Panthers program recently, all expected to join the team for the 2022-2023 OCAA campaign.

While Coutu would not have club experience this year to draw upon, the fact that the Notre-Dame seniors found themselves battling constantly with the likes of the city champion Confederation Chargers and finalist Horizon Aigles, both teams loaded with Chill talent certainly helped her at very least maintain the status quo.

"I am super grateful that we had a very skillful high-school team with a lot of club players, so I was able to build on that," said the young woman whose older sister (Megan) also enjoyed the varsity experience, backstopping the Cambrian women's soccer team to plenty of victories in her role as a keeper.

Now, she serves as confidante and advisor to her younger sibling.

"She told me that time management was a big thing for her," suggested Emma. "The training is a lot different in college than it is in high-school - it's more serious, there's more involved. You are more of a team in the sport, but even out of the sport."

Positionally, Coutu is more than prepared to go with the flow.

"A lot of the girls there are close to six feet tall and I'm only 5'7" - so I have to keep an open mind," she said. "I know I may not be playing at the net. As of right now, he has me as an outside hitter and defensive specialist."

The latter is a component where Coutu has pride herself greatly, recognizing the lay of the land in competitive volleyball at a relatively early age.

"From 13U, I've been working more on my defense - it's just something I've always been interested in. Even back then, I kind of knew that if I wanted to play at a higher level, I was at a disadvantage with my height."

Still open to the idea of perhaps following up a couple of years at Canadore with a transfer to Nipissing University, Coutu is anxious to tackle the work that lies ahead.

"I think they have a summer training program - there's a former player as trainer," she said. "She will send us sessions to do on our own and then we do get together once a month in the summer."

Come fall, it will be on to the next step of her journey.

"When I talked with the coach, he went over what their team was all about," said Coutu. "We talked about hard work in practice and being competitive against each other in practice."

And though that was not necessarily the future that Emma Coutu envisioned back in September of 2021, it is one that she is more than ready to embrace come September of 2022.

As all good volleyball players know, you simply have to learn to adjust.

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