A new era for the Capilano Blues women's volleyball team began Friday as, for the first time in 14 years, someone other than Wayne Desjardins took the first chair for a season-opening match.
The new-look Blues, now under the guidance of head coach Cal Wohlford, lost that opener at home against Douglas College Friday night but bounced back on Saturday to get revenge against the Royals at Douglas.
Wohlford is no rookie on the bench - he was head coach of CIS school Thompson Rivers University for two years and spent several years as an assistant at both Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia before that - but he took the past two seasons off from coaching high level volleyball. Following last weekend's matches he said it felt good to get back on the sidelines guiding a team with high hopes, heavy hitters and a strong history.
"It's enjoyable for me to be back in the reins again," he said. "I'm really looking forward to making Capilano my home base for a long period of time. I don't know if I'm going to go as long as Wayne did, 13 years, but I definitely do not see myself leaving any time soon."
Both matches against Douglas went the full five sets and Wohlford was pleased to see his team follow a tough loss with a tight win.
"We were definitely a better team the second night," he said. "We took a lot of the things that we learned from the first night and made them better. I think that's the structure of a good team - a team that learns from their mistakes and makes it better."
The coach isn't the only new face on the squad. In fact, only four players are back from last year's Pacwest bronze-medal-winning team and one of them, powerful left-side hitter Sarah Hughes from Burnaby, is out indefinitely with an injured knee.
"It's definitely a bigger hurdle to go over," Wohlford said about starting a season with so many new names. "You've just got to be a little more patient and communicate a lot more. . . . We know the things that we are doing well and we know the things that we need to get better at. There's no disillusionment in the sense that this isn't going to work. It's going to take time and patience, the girls are enjoying it and we are expecting to get better and better all the time."
Even with Hughes hurt, the strength of the team may be in the hitting department as demonstrated by returning players Sydney Thornton and Rhiannon Paterson racking up big kill numbers against Douglas.
The other returning veteran is fourth year libero Jacqueline Caverly, a defensive wizard who was named a second-team Pacwest all-star last season.
At setter the Blues do not have any returning players but new starter Mika Chow from Red Deer, Alta. is no rookie, now entering her fourth year of postsecondary eligibility.
The biggest question marks for the Blues are attached to the biggest players, the middle blockers. They're all Pacwest rookies this year and will be learning on the fly. Defence, and in particular blocking, is one area the team needs to shore up in the first half of the season before the Christmas break, said Wohlford.
"Offensively we're doing a pretty good job but you can never stop working on your defence," he said, adding that they also need to improve their scrambling ability for when plays break down. "When you're in-system and you get a good pass and you run your offence, it's easy. But when you don't get a good pass and you have to be able to adapt on your feet, those are the times that you can easily give up points."
It may all be new for the Blues but the goal for the season remain the same as always, said Wohlford: a national title.
"If that's not your No. 1 goal. . . ." he said with a laugh. "We want to do it all, we want to go all the way."
The Blues will be back at home this weekend for a pair of games against College of the Rockies. Game 1 goes Saturday with the women taking the court at 1 p.m. with the men to follow. Sunday's matches start at 11 a.m. with the women again leading off before the men hit the floor.