Anna Carlson finds herself in a completely new role with the RDP Queens volleyball team this season.
Having played middle her whole career, including four years with the Mount Royal University Cougars, the Sylvan Lake native was asked if she’d be interested in moving to the right side with the Queens.
The switch couldn’t have worked out better for both Carlson and the Queens who needed to fill a hole left by Emma Holmes, who moved on to the University of Alberta Pandas.
“Last year during the Covid year they asked if I’d be interested in trying out on the right side and it’s different for sure but it’s been a really fun switch, and I do get to stay on the court a lot more,” said Carlson.
At the USport level, middles typically don’t play the back row.
But it does mean she had to work on the defensive side of the game, as well as serve receive.
“I love playing defence as it’s super to stay in all the time and stay engaged in the game. In university you’d be in the game then there would be a break. Serve receive is the biggest adjustment, but I enjoy it.”
Anna played her high school career in Sylvan Lake under head coach Jason Chatwood, who she credits for much of her success.
“I owe him a lot for what has come to me,” she said. “He was the first one to talk with me and introduced volleyball as being an option at college.”
Anna talked with Queens head coach Talbot Walton when she was in Grade 12, but had already been contacted by MRU.
“I played club in Calgary, just to get to travel a bit, and the coach there was an assistant coach with Mount Royal, so there was a connection there.”
By the end of her time at MRU Anna was starting.
“I played a lot but we had a 40-year-old middle return and we split time,” she explained.
The five-foot-11 Carlson took a number of different roads when it came to her academics at MRU, but it was nursing that led to RDP.
“My mom is a nurse so that was always in the back of my mind so on a whim I decided to apply and my whole life changed in that month. It’s working out so well.”
The 23-year-old has stepped into a veteran-laden starting lineup with the Queens.
“It’s definitely an asset as we have so much experience,” she said. “If we get into different situations we can all look back on that experience. And it’s good in that the youngsters on the team can use us as role models.”
Queens acting head coach Chris Wandler agrees.
“Being a fifth-year player, and in her sixth season overall, she has a calming influence on the court,” he said. “That is eaten up by the group and they all feed off that.”
Anna sees no difference between MRU and RDP.
“It’s been a real smooth transition … we have such an exceptional skill level. We compete and practice with the same mentality as we had at Mount Royal. We want to win and we want to end up with a national championship, but we also know we have to earn it, nothing is given.”
Anna knows a thing or two about winning as she helped MRU advantage to the Canadians in the 2019-20 season.
“Unfortunately Covid cancelled the championships, but the big thing was getting there. That was our main goal.”
One of Anna’s biggest strengths is her play at the net and blocking, something she can use on the right side against some of the best power hitters in the ACAC.
“It’s my No. 1 strength and of course it’s different than playing middle as I have a shorter distance to go. The biggest adjustment was my hitting as it’s a different arm swing and I need to make a decision on lining up properly.”
But she’s been solid from the outset and sits second on the team with 29 kills in four matches, two behind Tess Pearman. She also leads the team in aces and is second in the ACAC with 11.
“Since the move, she’s taken off and ran with it … really embraced it,” said Wandler. “She utilizes her skills she had in the middle, especially with her blocking. That shows in our team numbers. They are as high as they have been in some time.”
Anna will only be with the Queens one season, although she indicated she’d love to stay in the game in some capacity.
“When I make it through college I’d love to be involved. As for being here for only one year, I have no regrets, it’s the best decision I ever made.”
The Queens sport a 4-0 record this season with four matches left before the break. They face Medicine Hat Friday at RDP and Sunday on the road. They face SAIT Dec. 3 at home and Dec 4 in Calgary.
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org