Print Edition: March 20, 2013
Volleyball is a sport that glorifies the big hit. The star middles or powers are most often the centre of the attention on the court ; they are the ones earning the big points. This year’s women’s volleyball team was no exception. For the casual fan who followed the squad throughout the regular season and a run into playoffs there was no doubt that the Cascades, with the likes of Jenna Evans, Katie Bilodeau, Kayla Bruce and Kierra Noot, had a plethora of highlight reel players. In the squad’s run to a provincial and national title the offensive stars were the point of focus on and off the court.
Despite the recognition that some of the offensive stars received, the women would not have had near the level of success they achieved this year without the stellar play of their fifth-year libero, Brittany Stewart.
Stewart is an unlikely hero. She quietly went about her season doing the dirty work, diving all over the floor, keeping balls alive and ensuring that the team’s offensive stars had a chance to get those big hits that the crowd celebrates. To the untrained eye Stewart is just a small piece on a squad full of stars, but ask anyone involved in the program and they will be quick to point out just who keeps the team together.
“[Stewart] is a great source of stability on our team. She’s the best captain I’ve ever had, and has given a great example to myself and others about what a leader should be like,” said Kierra Noot, a third-year middle from Surrey.
Part of what leads to the lack of recognition for Stewart outside of her own locker room is a general unfamiliarity with what a libero actually does and the importance of the position. “A libero is a more or less a defensive specialist. They wear a different coloured jersey, and are only allowed to play in the back row (the back two-thirds of the court). They are the best serve receiver and best defender on [the] team,” Noot explained briefly. After talking to a few more knowledgeable sources, I learned that the libero is essentially the primary defender on the court, yet also the individual who is most often responsible for setting the offensive attack by feeding the setter a good pass.
Stewart has spent five years at UFV. Five years of sprawling on the court, saving points and not expecting a thing in return. It is only fitting that finally, in her fifth and final year of eligibility, Stewart was recognized at the national championships with a first team All-Star award. The Cascades will have a massive void to fill in their lineup next season as they lose not only their on-court leader, but the captain who was considered the glue that held the team together.
As many of her fellow Cascades and individuals surrounding the program will tell you, Stewart has accumulated huge respect through her five years at UFV. Kayla Bruce, a fellow fifth-year senior, summed up the consensus of thoughts on Stewart:
“Brittany is hardworking, honest and passionate and has great leadership skills. She brings laughter and joy to the team and makes everyone feel like they have a special role on the team.”
Looking ahead at the years to come, Cascades fans can only hope that there is someone in the ranks able to fill Stewart’s shoes. In the meantime, we can look to Stewart as an example of the best combination of athleticism and leadership, a true Cascade.