After playing two years together at Mission Secondary school, volleyballers Mo Likness and Kristen McBride are suiting up together once again for the University of Fraser Valley.
The Missionites were two years apart in high school but both committed to the Cascades women’s volleyball program.
The team sits at 7-5 at the winter break and carries a three-game winning streak into the new year. They’ve won and lost 24 sets so far this season and find themselves sixth in the conference.
In her sophomore season, Likness is dominating defensively. She has played every set for the Cascades and leads the Canada West conference in blocks at 57.
“At our level, it’s such a strategic game,” Cascades’ head coach Janelle Rozema said. “She’s not just physically reacting anymore, you can tell that she’s playing with her physical gifts within a tactical and strategic approach to the match.”
Meanwhile, McBride is enduring her most challenging season yet. The fourth year outside hitter has missed time due to class conflicts and played just 16 sets this season.
“I was only able to go to one practice a week,” McBride said. “Trying to find the balance of still being able to get touches and get consistency while also not being there has been a challenge.”
However, Rozema says McBride has stepped up to the challenge.
”I’ve seen her really be able to overcome that obstacle and still has really integrated herself into the team,“ Rozema said.
Here Comes McBride
Mike Gilroy was still head coach when McBride was recruited to the University of Fraser Valley program and the Cascades were still playing in the CCAA.
McBride had just finished her second year at UFV when Rozema was hired as Cascades’ head coach and wasn’t involved in the recruitment process. The fourth year has experienced the jump from high school to the CCAA and then from the CCAA to Canada West.
“It’s so different. At each level, it definitely gets so much better,” McBride said. “[Canada West] is much more demanding and the level of play is so much higher.”
Rozema says McBride has adapted to the level of play and emerged as a leader on the team.
“In her second year, she was still a ‘lead by example’ type of a player but over the last few years, she’s really found her voice,” Rozema said. “Kristen is really wise and centred and gives balanced and mature advice and leadership to the group. She’s a really consistent and steady personality.”
Mo Likness, Mo’ Problems
Meanwhile, Likness was a part of Rozema’s first recruitment class. The new Cascades’ coach was impressed with Likness’s ability to get to the ball and play a central role with Mission Secondary.
“Mo is just really physically gifted,” Rozema said. “She’s considered an undersized middle for our league, but I was able to see that she’s able to play at a much bigger level than her height.”
At Mission Secondary, Likness helped the Roadrunners to the Eastern Valley title and was named tournament MVP.
“It was very evident – she’s very high in the air, hits the ball really hard, and plays very aggressively– but it was really fun to watch just her ability to score points, and her team really relied on her to score points,” Rozema said.
Likness’ physical skills afforded her a head start at the university level but she had to sharpen her tactical abilities.
“In high school, I was one of the taller ones and then coming into [university] I was like, wow, I am short, what am I doing?,” Likness said. “It’s a lot more demanding physically and mentally and the game is 10 times faster. It’s not just all about hitting the ball as hard as you can. It’s the tactical side of it too - it’s a big difference.”
She says the transition from high school to college was tough for her both athletically and academically.
“My first and second year I kind of struggled with my grades because I breezed through high school and I didn’t realize how demanding university was academically. Dealing with that would drag your mental health down and then it would drag your gameplay down.”
Rozema expects Likness’s game to continue to grow in the second half of the season and in the coming years.
“I see [Mo] absorbing gameplans and opponent prep, and her volleyball IQ is just going to continue to grow,” Rozema said. “She’s going to continue to really be a threat to the opponent, defensively, but also she’s been really working hard on getting her shoulder healthy so she can also be a massive offensive threat for us as well.”
McBride will have fewer class conflicts in the new year and will be able to practice more with the squad. She has one year left in her Fine Arts program at UFV.
“That’s only just gonna give us even more of it an advantage based on the stability that Kristen brings to our group,” Rozema said.
The Cascades open the new year with a pair of home games at UFV Athletic Centre against the Calgary Dinos on Jan. 6 at 6:00 p.m. and Jan. 7 at 5:00 p.m.