It’s safe to say this year’s Lakehead University Thunderwolves volleyball team will revolve around Sara Hudson.
Hudson, the junior setter, is volleyball’s equivalent of a quarterback or point guard, and is responsible for directing the team’s offence.
Hudson knows she must take on more of a leadership role for a squad that lost veteran Vanessa Chorkaway to the professional ranks in the offseason, and sees returning fifth-year senior Jorie Daymond still recovering from a major offseason knee injury.
“Being a veteran this year we have to really step it up, and especially as a setter, I have to really run the offence,” Hudson said in training camp. “I have to keep everybody in system each time and I’m running the floor.”
The goal for this year’s squad is to work towards building on last season’s banner campaign, where the team knocked off a heavily favoured foe, in then-nationally ranked No. 4 Ottawa and securing their first playoff berth in seven years.
“We came into this year excited to play and ready to keep the momentum we had from last season going,” Hudson said. “We’ve been training hard to keep that momentum going and hopefully we keep going towards that goal.
As the team gets ready for the start of their regular season this upcoming weekend against the Windsor Lancers, Hudson is nursing a sore shoulder that limited her playing time during the team’s most recent tune-up tournament.
She is also battling fellow third-year player Vanessa Masters for time on the court.
Hudson has helped make her case for the starting job by catching the attention of her team right at the beginning of training camp.
Lakehead head coach Chris Green has seen a remarkable turnaround in Hudson’s approach to the game.
“It’s neat to watch Sara’s progression over three years,” Green said. “I think she’s now taking ownership of the offence. Once she does everybody is accountable to her and she’s accountable to them. I think that’s where her leadership is starting to show through.”
While Hudson has been in fine form, the team is still awaiting the return of one of their marquee players.
Daymond, one of the conference’s most explosive hitters, has been sidelined after tearing her ACL in post-season training just over six months ago.
By all accounts, she is ahead of schedule and has been cleared to practice and participate in drills with the team.
In the meantime, Green will likely have to lean heavily upon the crop of rookies he has recruited.
He expects at least eight to have to contribute this year, and has made them a point of emphasis during their three preseason tournaments.
Lakehead opens OUA play with a home series against the Windsor this Friday and Saturday at the CJ Sanders Fieldhouse. Both games start at 7 p.m.
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