U of T women’s volleyball coach Drakich seeks more ‘incredible moments’ in 34th year


When the University of Toronto women’s volleyball group travels to Kingston to tackle Queen’s on Saturday, it’ll kick off Kristine Drakich’s 34th season as head coach of the Varsity Blues.

The Toronto native joined the U of T employees by approach of Sport Canada’s teaching mentorship program after her enjoying days ended. Drakich was a member of Canada’s nationwide volleyball and seaside volleyball groups, in addition to captaining the Varsity Blues.

“Every season and each era leaves a mark and influences me,” Drakich advised CBC Sports. “I am unable to bear in mind everyone, however over my 30-plus years, I can just about recall each season and one thing fantastic, magical, horrible, unhappy, unbelievable or uplifting in each season.

“Every season, irrespective of how profitable results-wise it was or not, there have been at all times some unbelievable moments and learnings. And but my recollection in phrases of video games just isn’t that robust.”


It is simple to know why Drakich’s recollection of recreation outcomes could also be missing. Her resume is one which requires a major trimming of accolades and accomplishments merely for the sake of brevity.

Since taking up the pinnacle teaching place, the Varsity Blues boast a 484-143 file, a 22-year streak of making the playoffs — in addition to an lively 10-season streak — and 11 Ontario University Athletics (OUA) championships, which matches her 11 OUA coach-of-the-year awards.

Under her management the U of T gained its first nationwide championship in program historical past in 2016, only a year after Drakich was named U Sports nationwide coach of the year.

If one brings these accolades to Drakich’s consideration, she does not appear to provide them a lot thought.

“Each season is about how we will maximize the talents of our group,” Drakich stated. “How can we co-create alongside the best way with the athletes? How can we transfer this from A to B?

“Maybe it is as a result of I used to be an athlete for a few years, however you do not take a look at the rating, or take into consideration the subsequent play, or the subsequent factor I’ve to do, or the subsequent moment. You actually need to be in the moment. And so I feel it is about merely, really being in the moment. And to try this each season.”

The group’s outcomes are reflective of her mindset; solely as soon as in Drakich’s profession has her group not certified for the playoffs.

University of Toronto women’s volleyball coach Kristine Drakich, proper, was inducted into the Volleyball Canada Hall of Fame in June. John Barrett, left, has been head coach of the Varsity Blues’ males’s group since 2011, and was inducted into the Volleyball Canada Hall of Fame in 2020. (@Varsity_Blues/Twitter)

Creating alternatives

But, like all campaigns, that 2010-11 year the place the Varsity Blues completed 5-14 and missed the playoffs has its personal story.

“There was a giant group [of players who] continued on after that 2010 season,” Drakich stated. “With losses, we develop. It’s how you are taking these difficult moments and switch them into alternatives.

“In that season it was Charlotte Sider and Sarah Chapin’s first year, who stayed proper via to the [very successful] 2014-15 years. We had some unbelievable those that year resembling Malena Rapaport and Julia Bellehumeur, who invested an amazing quantity and have been the curve of that group.”

Sider turned a four-time OUA all-star and two-time all-Canadian with the Varsity Blues, returning to the group in 2021 as half of the U Sports Female Apprenticeship Coaching Program earlier than changing into head coach with the Lakehead Thunderwolves for this upcoming season.

Sider joins York’s Jennifer Neilson — who performed for Drakich from 2011 to 2015 — and Acadia’s Jennifer Wood as former Varsity Blues’ volleyball gamers now steering their very own U Sports squads.

Heather Bansley graduated alongside teammate Wood in 2010, the ultimate year of the Varsity Blues’ 22-year playoff streak. Their departures marked simply half of the rationale the 2010-11 group discovered it tough to repeat the success of a provincial title in 2009-10.

The finish of Bansley’s U Sports profession kicked off a profitable worldwide profession in the game because the two-time Olympian in seaside volleyball began enjoying seaside at 20 as a result of Drakich advocated it as half of summer season coaching.

And in September of 2021, the Waterdown, Ont., native discovered herself again in the fold for the Varsity Blues as an assistant coach.

“It’s such a privilege to have individuals who need to proceed to help this system and develop in their very own approach,” Drakich stated. “Aside from working with us, [Bansley] is the interim nationwide coach for Volleyball Canada’s next-gen seaside volleyball program.”

Forging new tales, on and off the court docket

Bansley is now serving to to supervise the present iteration of the Varsity Blues, who’re experiencing their very own sizeable departure from final year’s group with center Jenna Woock graduating. Woock gained OUA East MVP and was a first-team all-Canadian in her remaining season.

On the technical facet, gamers resembling fourth year Elizabeth Bilawey or graduate scholar Lisa Wedel — who was co-captain of the Gryphons in her time on the University of Guelph — will look to fill that void in the center, whereas 2022-23 recruit Thea Ziesmann will likely be an element in the Varsity Blues’ future.

The group additionally has the profit of a star outdoors hitter in Julia Murmann, who collected U Sports rookie-of-the-year honours in 2021-22, in addition to being an OUA East first-team all-star.

But there isn’t any stress or expectation positioned on only one participant, simply as there is not for anyone graduate that has moved on.

Whether graduates pursue a profession in volleyball like Bansely or Sider, or one thing else completely is simply the identical to Drakich, who’s fast to carry up Dana Collins, a student-athlete who performed for the Varsity Blues from 2006 to 2009.

Collins was named one of Canada’s 100 strongest ladies in 2021 for her work supporting ‘the recruitment, retention, and development of ladies in Canada’s forest sector.’

The affect Drakich has had over the lots of of athletes which have come via this system since 1989 is not one thing that may be measured, but when she was ‘someway a bit of tiny half’ of anybody’s journey — both on or off the court docket — that’s sufficient for her.

“That’s one of the the explanation why I proceed to coach, to see the place these folks go,” Drakich stated. “These are extremely vibrant, curious, hard-working individuals who have the flexibility to concentrate on duties, translate data and revel in what they’re doing.

“Some of it continues on in volleyball, however some of it continues on in the educational or profession path that they are on. There are just a few unbelievable journeys and I work with unbelievable folks.”


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