Loss of grads is challenge for Mac volleyball coach

The graduation of four fifth-year stalwarts has McMaster women’s volleyball coach Tim Louks working hard to fill out his roster for next season. Toward that end, Louks is excited to announce his second wave of recruit commitments for the 2011-12 Ontario University Athletics campaign.

Recently confirming their intentions to don the Maroon are Taylor Brisebois from Aurora, Emily Dennis from Barrie, and Renee Helmer from Oakville.

“You can’t replace 20 years of experience,” says Louks. “But these are players I expect will help us compete for a championship, and that is always our goal.”

A 6-foot-2 middle blocker, Brisebois will join the Marauders as a graduate of the Hill Academy in Vaughn. A former player with Ontario’s provincial team, Brisebois was highly recruited by several OUA teams, and will bring a good dose of height and athleticism to the McMaster line-up.

“I knew in my heart that I wanted to be here (McMaster), but I still feel very relieved,” explains Brisebois. “I just feel like I fit in and the girls on the team have been very welcoming.”

Brisebois has been a standout with the Aurora Storm Volleyball Club, which has been rated as high as second in Ontario Volleyball Association rankings.

One of the leaders of her Innisdale Invaders team, Dennis helped her high school qualify for the 2010 Quad-A Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations championship. While playing for the Aurora Storm Volleyball Club, the 5-foot-9 Dennis has been a mainstay and one of the top hitters in her age category.

“Mac has the academic program I wanted and I really love the girls on the team” says Dennis, who is very familiar with the Hamilton campus, having watched many games her brother Brendan has played as a member of the Marauder men’s volleyball team. “Coming to watch him certainly helped me get comfortable with the campus, and of course he was always telling me all the good things about being at McMaster.”

A native of Oakville, 5-foot-10 Helmer is a multi-sport athlete, who brings an incredible record of success to the Marauders. In addition to being an all-star outside hitter for both her Abbey Road high school team and her Oakville Thunder club team, Helmer is a world-class softball player and has represented Canada in international competition.

“Mac’s athletic facilities are amazing,” said Helmer, about her decision to attend McMaster. “I always wanted to go somewhere that had the old buildings and history. So not only do I get new athletic facilities, but all the history and old architecture on campus.”

Recruited by numerous schools in both volleyball and softball, Helmer says finally deciding on a school is a big relief, “I didn’t take this decision lightly, but I am so excited and can’t wait to get started.”

The newest Marauder recruits join Ancaster’s Lauren Mastroluisi and Oakville native Mira Krunic, who have already signed letters of intent to play for the Marauders this season.

“We are almost there as we move forward with these new additions, but the graduating players set a high standard and it’s my job to keep raising the bar,” says Louks. “I expect all the new recruits to contribute immediately. They will bring more versatility, intensity, and high expectations. We will be a different team, but one that, I think, will be fun to watch.”

McMaster will return the core of the team that tied for the best record in the OUA, but needs to replace all-stars Sarah Kiernan and Larissa Puhach, along with Kaila Janssen and Genevieve Dumas.

The Marauders will be the host team for the 2012 Canadian Interuniversity Sport Championships tournament that will be staged in the Burridge Gym March 2-4.