During COVID-19, the Durham Lords women’s volleyball team added two new players to their roster for the upcoming season.
Katie Stewart and Jessica Anatol both virtually signed their letter of intent in the past few weeks, which means they are committed to DC.
Normally, the athletes would come in for a photoshoot with the coach and their family but the campus is still closed as social distancing practices continue.
“We’ll wait for more information on when we can do this more officially,” says Tony Clarke, head coach of the DC Lords women’s volleyball team.
With the pandemic still unresolved, there is uncertainty whether there will be any varsity sports this year at DC, but Clarke says he is going about as if there will be a season this fall.
“The plan is to have a season,” he says.
During the pandemic, Clarke says he has stayed in contact with the new members of the team prior to their signing announcement.
“You know, the recruiting process did change a lot, but what remained the same was the contact through email, text and phone calls,” he says.
Clarke says that even though he was able to stay in contact virtually, he is used to the more hands-on aspect of recruiting.
“The thing I miss the most is the fact that we can’t bring the athletes in to see the school for itself and join for a practice,” he says.
Stewart, a transfer from Fanshawe College, says the timing for her to join the Lords made sense.
“It was a good time for me because I was in my graduating year and I was looking for a fresh start,” says Stewart.
Clarke reveals Stewart was close to signing with DC in 2016 before she made her decision to go to Fanshawe.
“I always tell recruits I don’t close the door. You can always try to come back later on,” he says.
That was the case with Stewart, who will be entering the Entrepreneurship and Small Business Program at Durham College in the fall. She says that she is excited to be joining the team after three seasons with the Fanshawe Falcons.
Stewart adds that the pandemic didn’t play a role in her decision to transfer.
“The pandemic has not affected my decision at all. In fact, it’s made me even more excited to get back into school and start playing again,” says Stewart.
Although she wasn’t able to see DC recently, Stewart says she remembers visiting in 2016 as a high school recruit and hopes Durham is as great as her memories.
“I already know there is a huge welcome factor from my visit in Grade 12 and I’m hoping none of that has changed,” she says.
Stewart adds some of the Lords players she knows from having played against them have reached out and welcomed her.
Anatol, who will be joining the Lords after two seasons with the Durham Region Volleyball Club, is an Ajax native and says she has visited the school plenty of times and has friends already at DC.
“I’ve seen her for a couple of years and I’ve always liked like and her demeanour on the court,” says Clarke. “With the versatility she has, it was something I really wanted to have as part of our program.”
According to Clarke, Anatol had an opportunity to watch a practice earlier in the year but unfortunately couldn’t participate because she was dealing with a concussion.
She will begin her Honours Bachelor of Behavioural Science program this fall.
Clarke says he’s finished adding players for this year, but he’s been doing a lot of recruiting during quarantine for the 2021-2022 year just to be ahead of the game.
“You always want to be at least a year or two ahead of the curve because you don’t want to miss out on some athletes that start looking earlier,” he says.