By Quinn Allen
Only a few short years ago, the Douglas College Women’s volleyball program was struggling. They couldn’t find themselves out of the bottom of the PacWest and failed to really get anywhere come playoff time.
Fast forward to this season where second year head coach in Jeff Ross, who brings 10 years of coaching and a full resume of a university playing career to the table, has led the Royals to a 21 and 3 record in conference play. In the CCAA rankings that came out on February 13th, Douglas is also ranked number one in the nation, a feat that the Women’s program has never seen.
Claudia Corneil, a third-year player who also serves as the team captain, will move on to play at UBCO next year. She has seen this team go from a bottom of the standings team, to a top-notch squad that is currently the best in the nation. She voiced there was one thing that really motivated the team to become one of the elite programs in the country.
“I think what changed was that drive to get out of that bottom spot. In my first year or even my year before we were a team who got knocked out in the quarterfinals for consecutive years, then we got a new coach, Jeff Ross, and you know, different players coming in, and the addition of all that change kind of sparked something to recreate the name of Douglas College volleyball and really put ourselves out there and make a name for ourselves,” Corneil said.
That’s exactly what they have done, make a name for themselves. New players coming in and a new coach that brings a different style of coaching has reinvented this program. Corneil also had praise for the support the team has had from not just the athletic department, but every other athletic team at Douglas.
“The culture within the athletic program at Douglas has been so supportive and it’s honestly like one big family. At our games we always have different teams there like the baseball teams, the basketball teams, our athletic director is out there, and everyone who is a part of the athletic programs at Douglas is just always supporting each other and wanting every team to do the best they can,” Corneil added.
There’s players from all over the province on the Royals roster, but you’ll find one who is from thousands of miles away; Vania Oliveira, who hails from Rio Di Janiero, Brazil.
Oliveira is in her second year on the team, after moving here with her husband just a couple years ago. Her first day in Canada was the last day of tryouts for the Women’s team, and ex-coach Kyra Iannone liked what she saw so she gave Oliveira a chance.
Oliveira has been a key contributor to the team this year, including player of the week honours last week, where she combined for 27 kills, four blocks and chipped in with 24 digs in six sets to take down a solid VIU Mariners team. She has also seen this team go from the bottom to the top and credits the way the team gels towards their recent success.
“I think the comradery on the team has been really instrumental in the success we’ve had this year. Not so much the personal abilities, but the fact that we all understand each other on the court has really helped,” Oliveira said.
“Volleyball isn’t very important in Brazil, so to come over here and see how much time is invested in our team is great to see. We are really like a family,” Oliveira said.
The combination of a new coach, comradery, and a will to be better after struggling for so many years has helped the Douglas College Women’s volleyball team soar to the top of the PacWest and sit as one of the best teams in the country. They will look to continue their outstanding play in Provincials this weekend as they look to clinch a berth to the Nationals.