With seven rookies and five sophomores on the women’s volleyball roster, growing pains are inevitable. But following an underwhelming 0-3 start, the team saw themselves in a hole.
In an unfortunate position, the team’s veterans took it upon themselves to initiate a change. Among them is fourth-year outside hitter Shannon Neville, who’s been teaching her teammates the value of her experience.
Thanks to a combination of strong play and experience, Neville has come into her role as a leader on the team.
“We were a pretty fresh team to start off the year,” she said. “But coming into the second half we really worked hard over Christmas break and had a strong start in second semester.”
The fourth-year outside hitter has improved her play with each new campaign and has already achieved new career highs in kills, kill percentage and blocks this year. She registered 13 kills in a 3-0 win at Lakehead, plus 12 kills, 2.5 blocks and an ace in a four set victory versus Waterloo earlier
Since the rough start, they’ve been on a tear, winning eight of 12 matches, good for fourth place in the Eastern conference. This stretch includes a 3-0 victory against York and a 3-2 comeback win over the rival Western Mustangs.
Neville played volleyball throughout high school, including five years of club and two years of provincial rep.
“All my experiences playing for a variety of teams across a wide breadth of performance levels prepared me well for where I am today,” she said.
Shannon’s older sister, Katie, played four years with the Gaels including Shannon’s first year on the team — which drew her to the program. Katie also picked up an OUA championship in 2011-12, in Shannon’s final year of high school.
After a tough quarterfinal loss to the U of T Blues in last year’s playoffs, Queen’s is now on track for another postseason appearance as they sit fourth in the OUA East.
The Gaels will have to maintain their solid play as the match ups get more challenging come playoff time, but Neville is confident in the team’s preparation.
“Every person on the team has been going so hard in practice so we’re even more prepared when we go into those games against the big dogs.”
As she looks back on her time as a Gael, Neville said she’s been thankful for it all.
“I loved being able to be part of such a high-performance athletics program and still manage to enjoy it every step of the way — even through all the roller coaster fifth set games and tough 7 a.m. workouts,” she said.
Although this is her final year of undergrad, Neville is looking at the option of attending graduate school for engineering at Queen’s, and would continue to play volleyball if she can. However, if this is her final year as a Gael, Neville will look back on her time here with fondness.
“I’ve made the closest of friends in my teammates and will be able to cherish those relationships even after we’re all done university.”
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