Trinity Western Magazine

No. 26

Spartans Never Say Die

Led by six seniors, TWU’s women’s volleyball team wins their first ever CIS championship

by Shara Lee

the spartans women's volleyball team celebrates their come-from-behind win in the cis national championships.

the story could have come straight out of one of those inspirational sports movies, like Friday Night Lights, The Mighty Ducks, or A League of Their Own: the TWU Spartans women’s volleyball team struggles for a few years, gets close to first place, but never quite makes it. Finally, they’re in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) Gold medal match against the University of Alberta Pandas, but they’re down 2–0. They know they have to do something, and quickly. Suddenly, out of nowhere, team captain Alicia Perrin (’15) yells out, “Goonies never say die!” and everything changes. The Spartans come back to win 3–2.

Why The Goonies? Prior to the CIS championship, while on the road, third-year outside hitter Sophie Carpentier shared this much-loved childhood movie with her teammates. The players bonded over it. Maybe it was the relentless spirit of the young adventurers that the players related to, or the can-do attitude of Mikey and his gang, but whatever it was, the movie gave the team that extra push they needed.

“This was the magic for us,” says Trinity Western University women’s volleyball coach Ryan Hofer. “I was sitting on the sidelines thinking, What do I say to the girls? We’re down by two. All of a sudden I hear, ‘Goonies never say die!’ and see them cheering and getting excited, laughing, and relaxing. Then we proceed to win the next three sets.”

So how did the TWU women’s volleyball team manage to win their first CIS Gold? It wasn’t just the team’s love of The Goonies that helped them succeed.

According to Hofer, it all started with a goal to be the fittest team. “After losing last year,” he says, “the girls said, ‘let’s be the fittest team.’ So the entire summer was dedicated to nutrition, to health, to learning how to take care of and make their bodies as strong and as fit as possible.”

Coach Ryan Hofer gives Royal Richardson a word of encouragement during the CIS gold medal ryan hofer gives royal richardson a word of encouragement during the cis gold medal match.

The women ran with the idea. Suddenly, it wasn’t enough to be the fittest physically; they strove to be the fittest relationally, mentally, spiritually, and socially as well. “We wanted to make sure we were healthy and strong in all of those areas,” says Hofer, “because we believed that being the fittest team was going to help us be successful in the end. And it worked out.”

Left side Royal Richardson (’15) agrees. “I think the main reason we won gold was that we truly were the fittest team physically and mentally. There aren’t many teams, especially in volleyball, that can come back from a 0-2 deficit.”

Richardson’s own journey is one that parallels the struggles of the team. Known for her power on the court, she’s one of those athletes who opponents fear because of her strength. In her second year she became a starter, securing a position that all young players covet.

But exercising her strength soon led to injuries. By her fourth year, volleyball had taken a toll on her body. “We were at Nationals, and I was in pain,” Richardson recalls. “I thought I had to power through, but really what I was doing was hurting everyone else. Just talking to my teammates really opened me up to how selfish a player I was being. So we decided that I would sit out.”

This was a turning point for Richardson. She accepted that, sometimes, you have to put your ego aside and give up your spot for the sake of the team.

Although the Spartans didn’t make it to the final last year, it was this very lesson that Richardson believes helped contribute to the team winning gold. In this year’s CIS championship match, she and teammate Carly Hamilton (’15) shared the left side role.

“We found a solid combination between Royal and Carly that got the best for both of them,” says Hofer. “Royal has one of the heaviest arms in the league. She is a powerhouse and can terminate the ball. Carly is an amazing server and a solid passer. She’s mentally tough and deals with errors well. They both have very different playing styles, but we used that to our advantage.”

We truly were the fittest team physically and mentally. There aren’t many teams that can come back from a 0-2 deficit.

Instead of one star left side player, Richardson and Hamilton tag teamed. Richardson was able to manage her past injuries, with Hamilton taking a lot of the volume.

“In the end it was the best possible thing that could have happened,” Richardson says. “It was almost like the mixture of our skills allowed us to be the most effective players out there.”

What resulted is what Richardson says was her “best game ever.” She finished the game with 16 kills, 11 digs, and two blocks. “I could probably say that was the climax of my season, of all my seasons,” she says.

But while the two left sides may have made a significant contribution to the CIS win, it was certainly not the only contribution. This was a team effort, led in part by six determined senior girls who each supported one another with their individual strengths.

“We were well led this year,” Hofer says. “It’s amazing to see their leadership develop over the five years. Each of them brought different strengths.” According to Hofer, Richardson shared a passion for strength training; Casie Gano (’15), a love of community; Hamilton, a great work ethic; fraternal twins Lauren (’15) and Kristen (’15) Moncks, a positive outlook and a personality that kept the team laughing. As the team captain, Perrin did a combination of everything.

Hofer gives a lot of credit to the seniors who didn’t get much court time. “To watch the game, you see something very special. Lauren and Casie didn’t play as much, but they were cheering their guts out on the sidelines. As a coach, I can’t put into words the value that brings to the team. You don’t win a championship without that.”

Maybe the TWU women’s volleyball team identified so much with The Goonies because, like them, the threat of losing something they wanted so badly was just too much to bear. So they refused to give up, even in the face of major challenges, injuries, and losses.

“I think you come out of struggle stronger than you were before it,” says Hofer. “It would have been great if we’d won in three straight, but to come back from a deficit and win made it pretty sweet. This team refused to die.”

Team on a Mission

From April 27 to May 7, TWU’s women’s volleyball team travelled to Haiti for an 11-day missions trip, during which the Spartans served with Rod and Debbie Wray of Harvest International at Camp Mahanaim in Les Cayes.

In addition to volleyball camps and clinics, the team helped with a pair of mass weddings for Haitian couples who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford a wedding. The Spartans collected nearly 30 wedding dresses, as well as wedding rings for every man and woman involved.

“It’s great to get out of our North American environment and culture and be exposed to something different,” says Hofer. “It helps us focus on causes that are greater than ourselves, while building relationships beyond our everyday circles.”

by Shara Lee
Photography by Scott Stewart ’92

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