Heading into this season, Jennifer Casey had spent much of her university career as a work in progress.
The Lakehead Thunderwolves volleyball team has caught glimpses of the finished product, and so far is reaping the benefits.
The left-side hitter tied for the most kills on the team on on Friday, and won three of her team’s final four points on Saturday as Lakehead opened their season with a weekend sweep of the Windsor Lancers at the Thunderdome.
Casey said her strong play on the weekend motivates her to keep progressing as the season continues.
“It drives me to continue and do the best I can,” she said after Friday’s match.
Fifth-year senior Jorie Daymond was ecstatic about Casey’s ability to step up with the match on the line.
“She was able to make those big kills on the crucial points and stay focused and keep going,” Daymond said.
Lakehead head coach Chris Green said there's no doubt Casey has the potential to be one of the conference’s most dangerous attackers, but said she must find a way to maintain that level of play.
“She’s probably one of the top physical hitters in the OUA, but she has to be a consistent physical hitter and she’s learning to do that right now,” he said.
Casey, who hails from Winnipeg, showed her dominant side on the weekend when the match was on the line, as she played her best points in the fifth set.
After misplaying a serve to give Windsor a brief lead, Casey rebounded to win the next two points for Lakehead with kills, and then closed out the match with a spike that was too hard for the Lancers defence.
Green said that was a situation that Casey might have struggled with before and would have gotten down on herself.
Casey said she spent a significant amount of time in the offseason working to prepare herself for big moments, so she could get past tough points.
“I’ve done a lot of work in the gym, and my downfall in high school and the last two years was confidence,” she said. “A lot of it was mental for me, and I’ve done a lot of work in that area to perform and be consistent.”
Her teammates have definitely taken note of her new demeanour.
Setter Sara Hudson said knowing Casey has confidence in her ability makes setting to her so much easier.
“She comes into this season ready to go and she knows she can do it. She believes in herself, and her passing is a lot better this year,” Hudson said.
“I have that confidence in her. Her having more confidence helps everybody, because know everybody believes in her.”
Hudson added that Casey’s height and leaping ability provides her with a significant weapon.
With Vanessa Chorkawy leaving to play professionally in Europe and Daymond coming back off a major knee injury, Casey is being looked upon to claim a spot in the starting lineup.
So far so good, after she had a hard time finding consistent minutes early in her career.
“Jenn has worked over three years to want to be a starting player,” Green said. “She struggled with it, and she had never done it in her career. We’ve had a couple of meetings and she’s really stepped up.”
The Thunderwolves take next weekend off, before travelling to face the Ryerson Rams and Toronto Varsity Blues on Nov. 1 and Nov. 2.
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