Bronwyn Hawkes is one of the shorter setters in the country, but the five-foot-five RDC Queens star stands tall in talent.
The Notre Dame grad played a major role as the Queens captured the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association championship last spring. She was named to the first all-star team at the nationals, along with outside hitter Brooke Sutter. Power hitter Amber Adolf was the tournament MVP.
“Even though she’s not the most physical setter, her ability to get the ball to the hitters outweigh her physical height … we feel her attributes will generate more points than we give up,” said Queens head coach Talbot Walton, who followed Hawkes’ career from the time she was 14.
“I followed her and always liked the way she released the ball. Her body position is good and she sets the ball really well. While she’s classified as a smaller setter, she fits the role I was looking for.”
“I don’t think my shortness is a huge factor on the game,” said Hawkes. “We have a team that’s based on playing strong defence around me. But teams don’t really pick on me, which is a good thing.”
They don’t pick on her because despite her size, she has among the best vertical jumping ability on the team and consistently gets her hands in the right place.
“She is a good blocker, digs the ball well and serves well,” said Walton. “She has good instincts around the net and good timing. Players don’t hit over her.”
Hawkes got involved in the Red Deer Queens Volleyball Club when she was 14 and came up through the club system, while also playing at Notre Dame. Much like at the RDC Queens, Hawkes came into the Notre Dame program behind Kirsten Sorensen.
“She was in Grade 12 and I was in 10 so I played junior that year, which was good for me,” Hawkes explained.
She moved into the senior team in Grade 11 and by the time she got to RDC, Sorensen was a third-year starter, which once again left Hawkes on the bench.
“But that was fine,” she said. “I don’t think I was ready to play that first year. It was a lot bigger than club or high school ball. I was behind Kirsten and she showed me how to play. She was a good inspiration and she prepared me, along with Talbot (to eventually start).”
Hawkes stepped in as the starting setter last season and never looked back.
“I got to play in year two and hopefully in year three,” she said with a laugh.
“We were super pleased where Bronwyn was at the start of year two … she was way ahead of expectations,” said Walton. “She settled into her role right away. She was able to set the ball to the outside with some speed and she just continued on the rest of the year in a way that was outstanding for her and the team.
“It’s important to have her back this year after losing most of our outside hitters. What we do have is good middles, so it’s good to have Bronwyn, who can find those middles and take some pressure off the outside hitters.”
The Queens lost Sutter and Adolf from the left side and Karissa Kuhr from the right side, but Hawkes is confident the returning players will step up and fill those holes.
“I just look at where I was from my first year to my second and I definitely feel the second-year players will do just fine. I know Miranda (Dawe) was our third (left side) hitter by the end of last year and she’s fitting in nicely.
“The nice thing is almost everyone knows the system and have played together so we don’t have to go over that and can begin to take the next step.”
Hawkes hopes the next step will lead to another national championship.
And then she can look at what her future holds.
“I have options open to me for next year. I could stay here or go to the University of Alberta. I’m not sure I’ll look at playing volleyball once I leave.”
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter who can be reached at email@example.com. His work can also be seen at www.rdc.ab.ca/athleticsblog.