MEDICINE HAT, AB — Amber Stigter has waited a long time for the results to show.
Now in her fourth year with the MHC Rattlers women’s volleyball program, the All-Conference hitter is finally seeing the hard work pay off.
“I’ve been waiting for four years to do well,” said Stigter, who finished with the second most kills in the ACAC’s south conference last year. “It’s about time in my eyes. It’s nice. It’s a good change, and it’s exciting.”
The Redcliff-product has been influential in what’s turning into the Rattlers best start in over six years.
Although they dropped their two most previous matches to the Red Deer College Queens, retreating their record to 3-3, the ladies confidence and athleticism is shining through, according to Stigter.
“We have a lot of good first-years,” she continued. “Coming in, they knew they had to work against us and try and beat us out of our spots and some of them have. They pushed us to be better players as well.
The Rattlers opened the season with a bang — back-to-back straight sets victories over the Olds College Broncos.
Then, after dropping their first match of the year to Ambrose University, they clawed out a marathon victory over the Lions after falling behind two-sets-to-none.
“I’ve seen that happen very rarely in my coaching career when a team’s down 2-0 and wins 3-2,” said Kim Stonehouse, who’s entering her fifth year at the helm. “That showed a lot of character and just the potential of our team. We’re not going to go down without a fight.”
There’s a lot more volleyball left to play this season, but the ladies are already tasting a possible berth into the playoffs, which hasn’t happened since 2013.
Stigter says inner-team competition has helped fuel their early season success. No one had a guaranteed place entering the season, which was new for those returning to the black and gold.
This intensity hasn’t eased up over the last several weeks of regular season play. The result is a deep, hungry roster that continues to energize itself from within.
“Going into it, we knew that everyone is competing among each other for a spot,” she added. “We have multiple players for each position, so whoever shows up that week gets to travel that weekend.
“It just pushes us to be better than what we are now.”
The last time the ladies dawned a record over .500 to finish the season was in the 2012-13, where they finished second among south conference teams with a 12-8 record.
Stonehouse took over the coaching role for the Rattlers in 2014. She’s led five different rosters for the Rattlers since then; each have found their own versions of success despite missing the ACAC championships over that time.
Ultimately, Stonehouse doesn’t define success solely off of the numbers on the scoreboard, rather through the growth of each player individually.
“I think being comfortable in what our strengths are,” she said, when asked what success for this year’s team looks like. “Just going with that, and doing it well.”
In ‘doing it well’, Stigter could very well find herself competing for an ACAC Championship for the first time in her career.
“It’s exciting,” she added. “We have a good group of girls this year. It’s competitive and everyone’s trying there best.”
Stonehouse, Stigter and the rest of the ladies can bump their record back to above .500 Thursday night, when the Rattlers host their rivals, the Lethbridge College Kodiaks, at 6:00 p.m.
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