New year, new vibe for women’s volleyball

Athletes credit the approach of head coach Dana Cooke for improved play

The trouble with box scores is they show only the nuts and bolts of a sports game. They capture all the statistics with none of the heart. Box scores describe winners and losers without conveying how each looked while doing so, much less how each felt.

And in 2017, George Brown’s women’s volleyball team is different, even if the box scores haven’t caught up yet.

It began with an inspired come-from-behind victory over Fleming. After a particularly deflating second set saw the Huskies fall behind 2-0, George Brown looked dead in the water. But defying expectations, the team dug in and rallied to win three straight sets.

Rather than contradict the progress made, George Brown’s 3-0 loss to Durham solidified it. While facing the East Division’s powerhouse, the Huskies displayed a never-say-die attitude frankly absent in 2016. Much the same can be said of George Brown’s next outing, a 3-1 loss to the Centennial Colts.

Huskies head coach Dana Cooke firmly believed that her team is heading in the right direction, for two reasons. First, even when errors occur (and they do), she thinks George Brown’s intentions are better in terms of what they’re trying to execute. Second, the team is coming together in moments of adversity, as opposed to “just being a little bit disappointed in their own performance and then becoming very individual and very isolated,” said Cooke.

So far as both improvements are concerned, players were quick to credit their head coach.

“She has a lot of confidence in us and she trusts our decisions,” said setter Gabrielle Mitton. “I find that really helps with our development as not only players but people; how to make decisions quickly and how to solve problems.”

It’s impossible to separate the atmosphere Cooke has fostered from the team’s on-court improvement. By keeping things light, players have remained committed over the time needed to develop.

“You can work hard and enjoy it, have fun, keep it light,” said Cooke. “I’ve always had coaches that thought those two things were really separate, and I don’t believe that.”

For Cooke, it’s about creating an environment where her athletes can realize the potential they already show in practice. In turn, Cooke’s approach to countering the pressure players place upon themselves has allowed them to see beyond the ups and downs.

“It’s really helpful to look over at the bench and see that she’s standing with us, supporting us regardless of what the score is,” said outside hitter Liz Malatestinic.

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New year, new vibe for women’s volleyball