Rookie Leah Shevkenek has a strong first CIS season
Article: Brady Lang – Sports Writer
Leah Shevkenek has had a rookie season to remember.
The rookie product from Calgary, Alberta was named women’s volleyball Canada West rookie of the year on Wednesday after making a huge impact as a starting member of the squad in just her first year.
Shevkenek was well diverse in her play on the court, finishing first on the team in service aces with 27, while also adding 35 kills. It was also her impressive defensive performance that kept her so well rounded, adding 32 blocks and placing fourth in digs with 168.
The setter accomplished all of this by starting all 22 matches for the club fresh out of high school and finished the regular season with a Canada West single-season record 860 assists, breaking the record, which was previously set by Calgary’s Natalie Schwartz nine seasons ago.
With all of that accomplished in just her first CIS season, it’s safe to say Shevkenek has earned respect amongst the girls in the locker room.
“It feels awesome and is definitely an honour,” said Shevkenek. “Being a big part of the team this year and being able to have that title is great. I feel like I am now respected a lot more by the girls [on the team].”
However, not all was great this past week for the volleyball team.
The squad dropped their two matches against the Trinity Western Spartans and were technically eliminated from playoff contention. But since the ladies are hosting nationals this year, they will have the chance to redeem themselves next weekend as they received an automatic berth into the Nationals tournament taking place from Feb. 28-Mar. 2 at the Centre for Kinesiology, Health & Sport.
And with a week off to prepare before nationals, everyone is hoping the team will benefit from the additional practices heading into the tournament.
“We’re taking it one practice at a time and it’s really nice being able to have those extra practices,” Shevkenek said. “We’re just showing up to every practice and pushing ourselves even harder. I feel like we will be very prepared by the time we get to nationals [this weekend].”
However, it was announced Sunday that the Cougars received the No. 8 seed in the tournament and will have the daunting task of facing the No.1 UBC Thunderbirds in their first game of the tournament, a team who is looking for a seven-peat at the championships this year, hoping to become the first team to ever do so.
“We’ve already played against most of the teams in the tournament and have had quite a bit of success against them,” said Shevkenek, who is studing Kinesiology and Health Studies at the U of R “If we stick together as a team, something we’ve done well all season, I think we’ll have great outcomes. We have a chance to compete with every team that comes out.”
When looking into the future of the team, Shevkenek believes that the team can learn a ton from this week’s matchups at Nationals, being able to see the top talent from all over Canada can add another dimension to the team’s game, and competing in front of their hometown crown will be an unforgettable experience.
“This year, having the chance to host nationals definitely helps us and is a big step for our team,” said the young setter. “Being able to host a tournament like this, it will increase our playing level in the future, being able to see teams from all over Canada.”
Shevkenek wasn’t the only Cougar to win an award this season. Fifth-year outside hitter Desire Ates and fourth-year middle blocker Michelle Sweeting also were named First and Second team all stars, respectively. Shevkenek was named to the all rookie team as well.
The team will open up their tournament on Friday against tournament favourites the UBC Thunderbirds at 6:00p.m. The tournament starts on Friday at 1:00p.m. with the championship game being played Sunday at 6:00.Image: Arthur Ward