1997 Women's Volleyball

“All teams begin the season with dreams of being perfect. Few, very few, achieve perfection.
In the fall of 1996, under the direction of Lori Welsh Hawley, the Saint Mary’s University women’s volleyball team began a highly improbable quest.
The year before they had finished AUAA Conference play with a 12 and 7 record. Not bad but far from what they were about to achieve.
7 games in they were a perfect 7 and 0. Next up was 13 time AUAA champions Dalhousie. Saint Mary’s would lose the first two sets and then win three in a row for a very rare win over their cross town rivals. The confidence gained from the victory and the way it was done would prove a key turning point.
7 more wins would follow until Dalhousie and Saint Mary’s would meet again and once again the women wearing the black and gold would win the first game but lose the next three. A flip chart hung in the Husky dressing room so the players were aware of the schedule and the record. Little if anything was said of the possibility of going undefeated. A pair of wins against UPEI was all that separated Saint Mary’s from a perfect regular season. The Husky women were 18 and 0 and heading for the Conference championship tournament in Moncton. In New Brunswick Saint Mary’s would defeat St. Francis Xavier and, for the third time that season, Dalhousie. Saint Mary’s were on their way to the CIAU Nationals ranked #8 in the country with the school’s first ever volleyball conference title and a perfect record.
At the Nationals they would lose to #1 University of Alberta and the University of Saskatchewan.
The Huskies were not a big team, only two players around 6 feet, but they were very quick and extremely deep in talent which made substitutions easy and frequent. The team was well coached, with two-time Coach of the Year Lori Welsh Hawley and Assistant coach Jamie Moore. From day one the team bought into the coach’s (for it’s time) unconventional system. Players were expected to play all positions outside of their comfort zone and did so with regularity. This made Saint Mary’s very difficult to defend. With the help of Coach Moore, the team employed sports psychology and mental imagery, common strategy now, but rare at the time. The team wasn’t without ‘stars’; 2nd team AUAA All-Star and captain Nadine Sinclair and AUAA MVP Dana Olsen.
Timing can be critical in team sport and this was the prefect gathering of women athletes who were committed to a program and each other.
It was very much a second family. It was a team that had a ‘blast’ on the way to a dream season: a perfect Conference season of 20 and 0 and a volleyball legacy that few teams are capable of leaving behind.”

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