Jilliane Goulet was playing professional volleyball in Europe when she heard of a coaching vacancy at the University of New Brunswick. A former Atlantic University Sport (AUS) all-star with the Dalhousie Tigers, she was eager to make the move back to the Canadian East Coast.
Three years later, Goulet’s stint as head coach of the Varsity Reds women’s volleyball team has included both exhilarating achievements and heartbreaking defeat, and in February, she was named the AUS Coach of the Year.
Goulet, who is entering into her third year of coaching at UNB, believes that this season will be one of constant improvement for the women’s volleyball team.
The team struggled at the beginning of the 2013-2014 season, with 10 straight losses in the preseason and interlock schedule. The team earned their first win on Nov. 2 against Cape Breton, and went on to finish with a 7-9 record within their conference.
“It definitely wasn’t an easy way to start a season, but I think that we got better and better as the season went along,” said Goulet. “We took a huge step forward in beating Acadia in the playoffs. For the first time since I’ve been here we made it to the second round, which was really special.”
The Varsity Reds season ended with a 3-0 loss to Saint Mary’s in the semi-finals.
Looking ahead, Goulet believes that the future is bright for her team.
“The plan is to always get better every year, so that means at least making it to the finals of our conference playoffs.
“We have five new players who are already contributing and really changing the look of the way we play volleyball here. It’s a special year in the sense that we have this mix of strong returning players as well as a number of stellar recruits joining us.”
Goulet also emphasized that the squad is in a very different situation this year in terms of team dynamic.
“We lost our two best middles [Celina Abba and Rebecca Glancy] who were both all-stars for the team last season, as well as our captain Rebecca Glancy who had led here for many years.”
Goulet credited Glancy and Jodie McGill’s leadership as one of the key factors in determining the team’s success last season.
Although initially worried about the loss of two huge leaders on the team, Goulet said the senior players have stepped up and become more vocal leaders than they have been in the past. In addition, several new players have already shown leadership within the team.
“As far as filling in the position, I think we’re making progress already,” said Goulet “We’ve been lucky in the fact that we have two returning middles who are eager to see the court, as well as one in her first year who has been impressing us already.”
Following tournaments in Quebec and Ontario earlier this fall, the Varsity Reds hosted teams from Acadia and Western over Thanksgiving weekend. The home team came out on top against Acadia and split two games against Western.
“[Thanksgiving] weekend was interesting because we did see improvement match to match,” explained Goulet. “There were things like blocking and defence that we struggled with and our serve reception needed work, but by the second match we were already looking a lot better.
“There are definitely still areas that we need to improve upon, but it was nice to see that the improvement was there even over the span of one weekend.”
Goulet cites serving as a strength for the team again this year. The Varsity Reds squad led the conference in total service aces last season with 124 and service aces per set with 2.18.
“It’s hard to say exactly what our team is going to look like as the year goes ahead because we have so many new players,” said Goulet. “We’ll take it as it goes, but we’re confident that we’re going to compete and have a strong season.”
The women’s volleyball team will be hosting the Université de Moncton Aigles Bleues this Saturday, Oct. 25 at 7 p.m.