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Meagan Onstad was a standout at this year’s Cougar Invitational tournament

Autumn McDowell
Sports Editor

The University of Regina Cougar women’s volleyball team managed to walk away from their first weekend of action with their heads held high and a third-place finish to their name.

The Cougars were in action from Sept. 23-25, as some of the Canada West’s top teams were in town to showcase the work that they had done in the off-season. Each year, the Regina Invitational is one of the first times that many of these teams get to see how they stack up against each other. This year’s tournament was no different, featuring teams from various university’s including Brandon, Manitoba, Thompson Rivers, Alberta, Calgary, Winnipeg and Saskatchewan.

For Meagan Onstad, a fifth-year player with the Cougars, the Regina Invitational has always been a sign that the regular season is just around the corner.

“[The Regina Invitational] is something that I look forward to,” she said. “It has always been our first tournament of the year, so that helps too. Just playing in our own gym is always my favourite, I love our gym, I love our school, I love playing here.”

Although the tournament may not be an exact indicator of who will sit at the top of the standings come March, it serves as a time for both coaches and players to experiment and get a feel for their new teammates’ strengths and weaknesses.

“It is important to try out different lineups. Obviously not everyone is going to get equal playing time, but it is good to try out different players in different spots,” Onstad said. “That way we can get a feel of what peoples roles on the team are going to be and so that we can see what works and what doesn’t work. It’s nice to have options.”

The Cougars were undefeated after the first day of play, earning wins against both Thompson Rivers Wolfpack (27-25, 25-16, 25-21) and Brandon Bobcats (22-25, 25-12, 25-19, 25-19). However, Sept. 24 did not treat the team very well, as it suffered two back-to-back losses against the Manitoba Bisons (25-23, 25-13, 24-26, 25-19) and Alberta Panadas (25-9, 25-23, 25-17). With a 2-2 record heading into the final day of the tournament, the Cougars were slated to face the Calgary Dinos in the bronze-medal game. Calgary had won the tournament three times in the last five years, so the Cougars were ready for a battle right to the end.

The Cougars opened the final match winning two straight sets, looking dominant at times against such a powerhouse team. However, after two-consecutive set wins, the Cougars hit a bit of a slump. Miscommunication became the story of the third and fourth set and the host team suddenly found themselves going into the fifth set with momentum very much in Calgary’s favor.

Regina was able to gain a lead in the final set and never looked back, earning both the set and match win (25-22, 25-9, 13-25, 24-26, 15-9).

Getting the final kill to put Calgary away was Onstad. It was fitting, as she will not play in another Regina Invitational ever again. However, instead of worrying about the future or dwelling on the past, Onstad lives for the moment.

“Absolutely, it feels great. I am on a complete high right now,” she said after the match. “It feels really good to win in five [sets] too and work hard for it. That game was up and down, but it feels really good to come out of the fifth set on top.”

Although Regina finished one place behind where they finished in last year’s tournament, overall the team was pleased with its progress during the weekend.

“I am happy with this weekend, both individually and as a team,” Onstad said. “We had some ups and downs this weekend, both as a team and individually, but overall, l I think that we got what we wanted out of the tournament.”

The Cougars are scheduled to play five pre-season games running from Sept. 30 to Oct. 16 before the regular season is officially underway on Oct. 28, when Regina takes on the UBC Thunderbirds at the Centre for Kinesiology, Health and Sport.

For a player like Onstad, who is entering her final year with the Cougars, she knows first hand how fast the years go.

“It went by really fast. I feel like I was in my first year last year,” she said. “I get all of the years mixed up. When someone asks me about something, it all blends together.”

In her last season of eligibility, Onstad has many things that she wants to accomplish both personally and as a team, but she will be keeping specific goals to herself for now.

“Individually, I know what I want to do [this season]. I wouldn’t say that I crunched the numbers or anything but I know in general,” she said. “I have a lot of goals for myself.”

The fan turnout was once again a story as there were still plenty of empty seats in the bleachers, but to Onstad, it doesn’t matter who is there to watch her.

“In some ways I don’t care, but being a business student I think about these things,” Onstad said. “The low attendance doesn’t affect us as a team or anything, but for the Cougar program, I think that we need to get more students involved, high school students and teams and more awareness too.”

Fans should take every chance they get to see Onstad in action this season, as her time in a Cougars uniform is coming to a close.

Tournament final Standings:

1.Alberta
2.Manitoba
3.Regina
4.Calgary
5.Winnipeg
6.Brandon
7.Thompson Rivers
8.Saskatchewan

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