Country gal top rookie out east
Volleyball: Josie Leduc named Atlantic University Sport rookie of the year
By: Bruce Campbell
| Posted: Wednesday, Feb 27, 2013 06:00 am
The top female rookie university volleyball player is excelling in a place where fish is king, despite coming from the heart of cattle country.
Josie LeDuc, a middle blocker for the St. Mary’s University Huskies, was named the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) Female Volleyball Rookie of the Year on Feb. 14.
The 19-year-old grew up at Leduc’s Lynnwood Ranch near Aldersyde, which is renowned for its smoked Alberta beef. In Halifax she played in all regular season matches and playoffs for the Huskies, who finished second in the conference with a 10-8 record.
“We were a young team and at the start of the year we just started to click together,” LeDuc said. “We got a veteran player (Ariel Smith) who came back for her fifth year and that had a big impact.”
The Huskies lost their first six games of the year, and with the return of Smith, won 10 of their next 12 games and wound up playing powerhouse Dalhousie University in the AUS final on Feb. 16 in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Playing in the tournament was one of the highlights of Leduc’s career, she said especially beating the host Memorial University in the semifinal.
“The home crowd was loud, there were hecklers and to be able to silence that crowd was unbelievable,” said LeDuc, who graduated from Holy Trinity Academy in 2012. “You would go back to serve and they (the fans) would be yelling your name. It was a test of mental strength.”
The Huskies would lose to Dalhousie in the AUS final the next day in St. John’s, ending a rookie season to remember for LeDuc.
The six-foot-one Leduc averaged 1.21 kills per game, 1.9 points and .63 blocks for the Huskies.
She credited the Okotoks Volleyball Club for developing her skills and love of the game.
“The Okotoks club was a good foundation for getting me into a higher level of volleyball and it helped me figure out that’s what I wanted to do,” she said.
After a stint with the Okotoks club LeDuc moved on to the 403 Selects in Calgary. It was while playing for the Selects at the 2011 club nationals in Abbottsford, BC Leduc caught the eyes of Huskies coach Darren Russell.
“We needed to pick up some middles and when I saw her team I really liked her attitude and energy she brought on the court,” he said. “Luckily, we were able to invite her to see what we have and she liked it.”
LeDuc was an unknown entity when Russell went to Abbottsford, but she was number one on his list after seeing her play.
“Once we saw her play, we started following her team around to evaluate her,” he said.
She made the adjustment to university ball quickly.
“She came in as a rookie and earned a starting spot,” Russell said. “She is one of the best athletes we have ever had attitude wise. She is so keen to make herself better and her team better… There were times when she won the game for us with either her blocking or her serving.
Russell said LeDuc is quick in the middle and also a quick study.
“The hardest thing for a first-year player is getting used to the speed of the play and being able to read the opponent,” Russell said. “As a rookie she did a very good job and we anticipate her getting better and better as she stays with the program.”
Russell said he would not be surprised if LeDuc gets another honour later this year.
Leduc’s grade point average in general sciences makes her a strong candidate for the Academic All-Canadian team. She plans to major in biology in the future.
Although Josie had to replace her dad Gus’s Alberta beef with fish and chips, she’s enjoying her first year in the Maritimes.
“On my recruiting trip I really liked the feel of the city, the coach and the university,” LeDuc said. “I am really enjoying Halifax. The people are really friendly.”
LeDuc will now be one of four players vying for the Canadian Interuniversity Sport rookie of the year. The other candidates are from leagues in Quebec, Ontario and Canada West.
The winner will be announced at the CIS championships Feb. 28 to March 2 in Sherbrooke, Quebec.