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Time with Cougars helped McTaggert grow

Coming out of Grade 9 Laura McTaggart felt she would likely have to move from Lacombe if she wanted her volleyball career to take the next step.

“I was shooting for something bigger and I thought to be able to progress I had to move to a more elite school,” she explained.

The Notre Dame Cougars were the benefactors of her decision.

“I came to Notre Dame because of coach Chris Wandler, who had a lot of success, and a strong group of girls. I didn’t know where my road would take me, but I was looking forward to it.”

It was certainly a benefit to the Cougars, who won three zone titles while she was with the team, and now have a winning streak of seven in a row.

At six-foot-three McTaggart can dominate the game at the net, both offensively and defensively. Her abilities also haven’t gone unnoticed at other levels.

She’s played with Team Alberta the last three seasons and with the junior national team last summer.

While with the U15 Team Alberta squad she won the blocking award at the Western Canadian championships.

“That gave me a lot of confidence coming into Notre Dame,” she said. “Then the next year I played club with the Queens and with Team Alberta.”

It was the same scenario the following season and it was while with Team Alberta, at a national tournament in Winnipeg, that the Team Canada coaches saw her.

“We had an awesome club team last year, consistently in the top three in the province and I got a chance to play with Team Alberta again, which certainly helped my game,” she said. “Then being selected to the junior national team was an unreal experience.”

She learned she made the national squad the night before the finals of the tournament, but couldn’t tell any of her teammates.

“My mom was doing laundry during the final and I had three hours to get everything together, say bye to my family and teammates and join the national team at the dorms at the University of Manitoba.”

From there they travelled to Des Moines, Iowa, for a tournament against the USA junior and youth teams, national squads from the Dominican Republic and Chile as well as several State teams.

“That was an amazing experience. After the tournament we came back to Winnipeg and trained for a month,” said McTaggart, who was the starting right side.

“It was a new position for me, but I had the height,” she explained.

She returned to the Cougars this season full of confidence.

“So much confidence,” she said. “I also knew how to be physically fit and I was able to bring back what I learned so we can be even more of an elite team.”

The 18-year-old McTaggart is eligible to make the junior team again this year.

“It’s a little different format. They’re holding the Canadian championships for the club teams in Edmonton this year and I understand the national coaches will pick the team from there. I really want to be on the team again. I do have the coachs’ contact numbers and I’ll contact them and let them know I want to make the team and get that experience again.”

She may also try out for the senior national team.

“That would be a great experience.”

McTaggart will join the five-time defending CIS champion UBC Thunderbirds nextready to tackle new challenges fall. She isn’t sure what the coaching staff has planned for her, but it’s a perfect fit, especially in terms of education.

“I’m taking global resource systems program, and there’s no better place in the country for it.”

She was contacted by schools out of the States, but they didn’t fit her goals.

“I didn’t feel they worked in terms of transferring my education to where I want to be. It didn’t click to life after volleyball and to what I want to do with my life.”

McTaggart and her Notre Dame teammates have one more thing on their plate as they travel to Lethbridge for the provincial 4A girls championships, which open Thursday.

The Cougars go in ranked fifth and are in a pool with Calgary Sir Winston Churchill, Jasper Place and Grande Prairie.

Meanwhile, the Hunting hills Lightning are fourth-ranked on the boys’ side and are in the elite pool with Harry Ainlay, Chinook of Lethbridge and Sir Winston Churchill.

• The Camrose Trojans are hosting the 3A girls championship and join the Lacombe Rams in the 12-team tournament. The Wetaskiwin Sabres represent the zone in the boys’ championships at Hilltop High School in Whitecourt.

l The Rimbey Spartans are hosting the 2A girls finals, which open Thursday.

The Spartans go in as the host team and are in a pool with Strathcona Tweedsmuir, Vauxhall, Mayerthorpe, Bearspaw Christian of Calgary and Peace River.

St. Dominic Catholic of Rocky Mountain House are ranked fifth and in a pool with Spirit River, Vegreville, Christ The King of Leduc, Three Hills and Magrath.

The Spartans open play Thursday at 12:45 p.m. against Peace River while St. Dominic takes on Christ the King at 10:15 a.m.

l The 1A finals are at St. Jerome’s in Vermilion with Bawlf representing Central Alberta in both the boys’ and girls’ divisions.



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