Anastasia Callaghan expected to lead Cougars with all-around skill set
Stepping to the forefront
TRURO - Bob Piers has seen plenty of high calibre volleyball talent in his 34 years as a coach at CEC.
So what the Cougars skipper says about Anastasia Callaghan makes you stand up and take notice.
"She's certainly the most skillful player we've ever had here," he said. "She is exceptional."
That's a significant statement from a man who has coached university standouts Lauren Sears, Cassandra Teed, Ashley Wicks, Tara Matheson and Ali Beaver, just to name a few. And it's a statement the 17-year-old Truro resident deserves.
"There's no question she's a very talented kid," Piers said. "You don't get that skillful without a natural ability, but she takes that and works so hard at it."
Callaghan leads the Cougars into the Cougar Classic, which kicks off Friday at the school when Cobequid takes on Sackville at 4 p.m. The 20-team event continues into Saturday with the final scheduled for 5 p.m. It will be the only time this season the Cougars get to battle on their home court.
With that skill set and tons of experience, Callaghan is being looked upon to lead the Cougars for the rest of the season as well. It's a role she's just fine with.
"I love it," the personable teen said with a smile. "Bethany (Ferguson) and I are both seniors so we expected that role."
Last year Callaghan strictly played the libero position, receiving serves from the opposing team. This time she'll have to do more of that, in addition to serving, setting, hitting and blocking.
"She is going to be crucial," Piers said. "We're going to need her to perform and perform at a high level for us to be successful.
"That's a lot of pressure to put on a player but she's able to handle it."
It's worked out just fine so far with the Cougars winning both tournaments they've entered.
She's able to handle that pressure thanks to an abundance of experience playing at Canada Games, high performance tournaments in the United States, national and Eastern Canadian club tournaments and events all across the province in the past five years. She's been mentored by coaches like Piers, Darren Russell, Paul Settle, Tony Hill and Gilles Boudreau. Although she's always been a mature player, Callaghan has become even more so over the past year, especially after helping the province to a fourth-place finish at Canada Games, its best ever, despite being just one of two high school aged players on the team.
"(My teammates) were mostly all third year university players and I just looked at everything they did and their habits became my habits," Callaghan said. "I brought those things back to this team."
But it's not that she didn't have skill before the Games.
"She had that last year but we just didn't need to use it as much," Piers said, referring to the all-star cast the Cougars boasted a year ago. "Her experience really gives her the ability to come out and do things other players can't."
So where does that skill come from? It all boils down to Callaghan's desire.
"I hate to lose," she said. "I don't like it. So when there's a title or a game on the line I'll do anything I can to make sure we win because it feels so much better to win."
For her, that starts right from the first practice of the season. Callaghan's drive and energy on the court forces her teammates to rise to her level. She doesn't know any other way. Since she hates losing, Callaghan will be working extra hard to accomplish a feat this season few can boast. With the past two provincial titles in both high school and club play under her belt, Callaghan is looking to finish with a third in both this season.
"I'm driven more than ever," she said. "I've always imagined doing it and it's always been my goal so I definitely want to win this year."