By CURTIS J. PHILLIPS, Connect Contributor
It was back in 2003-2004 that a young coach by the name of Sheldon Germain guided a group of young women to new heights.
As members of the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference men’s and women’s volleyball ranks since 1990-1991; this group of young women would become the first Keyano Huskies volleyball team to qualify for post-season play. They would finish in 8th place, losing to The Kings University Eagles from Edmonton.
It was a baby step in the Keyano Huskies athletic program, which was kick-started in 1985. Currently, the program has four teams: men’s basketball and soccer with men and women’s volleyball. All of the teams ranked in the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association Top 15 polls.
We caught up with a few of the players that had set that standard from that 2003-2004 campaign and asked questions?
What memory (or memories) do you have of the 2003-2004 season when the Huskies qualified for the ACAC post season and what is your fondest memory of being a Husky?
“We were the underdogs. A group of skilled, determined players who struggled, who needed the confidence to consistently win,” recalled Amy Tycholis (Wowk). She led the teams in kills with 171 for the regular season. “Warming up for a game, the excited nervous energy, music blaring, focus, anticipation, watching team mates and opponents mentally ready themselves and go through their individual, sometimes superstition, pre-game routines. The parents and fans, always supportive, upbeat and pumped for a game.”
She continued to share, “My favourite memories stem from downtime with teammates. Hilarious discussions about things like: ‘Why it’s so crucial to have pockets in your sweatpants?’ We spent a significant amount of time together and many of us developed lasting bonds. Several of us still get together for a girls weekends and regularly call/meet to catch up. Although the content of our conversations has dramatically matured, we always reminisce and relive our great times together in college.”
Graduating with a diploma in Business Management, Tycholis along with her husband, own and operate Perrault Lake Camp, a fishing lodge in Northwestern Ontario.
Enrolled in Natural Resource and Environment Technology Program, Jennifer Skiba-Rawlake echoes Tycholis’ memories of playing at The Husky Dome.
“I remember the season being very exciting. We knew we were one of the first teams to ever make it that far and our coach Sheldon was pumped. I remember being selected by my teammates and coaches to be Captain of the Team that year.”
“I remember the season being very exciting. We knew we were one of the first teams to ever make it that far and our coach Sheldon was pumped. I remember being selected by my teammates and coaches to be Captain of the Team that year. I remember our setter Kara House making the All-Star team and a lot of us in the Top 10 for serving, blocking and digging. We headed to Grand Prairie for provincials and got to see a lot of teams that we never played before,” she said.
“My fondest memories are the lasting friendships that I have made with the girls. We were a big family that lived together, played together and went to school together. I remember having to watch really bad movies on the bus for road trips: Vanilla Ice and the Rocky series. One of my favorite memories was stopping at player’s parents houses if we were close to the town they lived in.”
Skiba-Rawlake is a therapy assistant in Cold Lake, Alberta.
Kara House – making All-Star status – is more remarkable when you consider two years prior she was a walk-on for the Huskies.
“It was very exciting for us and our school, since no other team had ever made it to provincials before,” said House, who is an office manager & executive assistant in Calgary. “It was a huge accomplishment and our team worked very hard that year to achieve our goal of making it to provincials. We were ecstatic when we found out we had made it, and the whole athletics department was extremely happy and supportive.
“We all have so many fond memories of playing at Keyano, but I think the best thing that came out of it was that a good core group of us are still very close friends. We keep in touch and try to meet up with each other, and every time we do, we reminisce about the season(s) and the laughs we all shared.
“I learned a lot playing for Coach Germain, and am lucky that I still play volleyball in a co-ed city league (as do many of the girls) with the same love for the sport that I had at Keyano. The three years I spent in Fort McMurray were some of the best I’ve had, and I don’t think I would have wanted to be at any other college. The coaches during my time there, as well as all the girls I played with and remain close to, made my college experience so amazing, and I wouldn’t change it for anything.”
Going on to Athabasca University and then MacEwan University, where she is now a project analyst, Pearl Douglas (Grabski) only played the one season for the Huskies but took away life lessons.
“For me, it was a time of growth. Sheldon trained us to think differently, not just play better. A lot of his coaching methods have stuck with me to this day. Out team was very committed and if someone skipped a workout, didn’t give 100% at practice, or had a bad attitude, it was frowned upon. We worked hard to achieve success and Sheldon worked even harder to prepare us.
“My fondest memories were of the friendships we built. The majority of the team lived together in addition to practicing together every night. Many of us have gone our separate ways, but we still have a bond from that season at Keyano. I feel very proud to be a part of the team that season, even though I am only now realizing how much we accomplished.”
Catch you on the rebound.