FALMOUTH, N.S. - This is Jasmine Smith’s first year with the Mount Saint Vincent University Mystics volleyball team, but she’s already made a huge impact.
The Mystics had a 20-1 record and finished first in the Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association, which wrapped up in February, and placed fifth in the national championship.
“I played two years while I was at Acadia and I graduated from there in 2016 and then just came to the Mount, kind of decided in the last week of August to come and play,” Smith said. “I spoke with the coach and within a week, that was happening. It was very last minute.”
The Mystics had lost six starters at the start of the school year, so they were looking for new, talented players, and Smith definitely fit the bill.
“It ended up being the right mix of girls and things turned out really well,” Smith said.
Smith received the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association’s (CCAA’s) All Canadian award at the CCAA All Canadian Awards Dinner hosted on March 14.
Recipients are selected by their conference based on performance and contribution to the sport and their team.
“It was a gigantic surprise to me, but obviously a huge honour. It was definitely a nice way to end the season. I hadn’t played volleyball, prior to starting at the Mount, for three years, so it wasn’t the plan at all, I really just wanted to come back and play,” she said.
“We worked really hard this season. It was a huge personal accomplishment for me and it definitely felt nice to receive that recognition.”
The third-year left side ranked second in the conference in hitting percentage and third with 3.46 kills per set.
Smith is described as a ‘dynamic player’ who comes to compete every day. She is a team player and shows great leadership on and off the court.
Her confidence and wealth of experience have been great assets for the Mystics this season. The Mount Mystics had a 1-2 record at the CCAA National Championships and placed 5th overall.
As of now, Smith doesn’t know if she’ll be returning to the Mystics or not, but would like to stay involved with sport to some degree, perhaps through coaching.
“Being a bit older, I do want to get started with some real-life stuff,” she said, noting that she came to the Mount to finish her second minor of her English degree. She also has a bachelor of sociology and kinesiology from Acadia.
“It’s been a busy year, I work, go to school, and I’m playing volleyball, so it definitely kept me busy,” she said. “But I think it kept me focused on task management and making sure I got everything done.”
‘Big part of my life’
Volleyball has been a go-to sport for Smith. She’s been playing it since she was 11 years old.
At the high school level, she played volleyball at Citadel High in Halifax in Grade 11 and at Avon View in Grade 12.
She played in provincial tournaments from 2007 until 2014 and at the Canada Games in 2013.
“It’s been a big part of my life,” she said. “It’s a sport where you are on a team, but you all have your own individual roles. You look to your teammates for support, which is something that’s really special about it.”
Returning to the game she loves was special as well, she says.
“You kind of see yourself as an athlete, or as a volleyball player, and when you lose that you kind of have a bit of an identity crisis,” she said. “But it was really nice coming back to it and realizing how important it is and how big of an impact it’s had on my life as a whole.”
This was the first year she played left-side, a more defensive position, after playing right side for the majority of her career. It was an adjustment, but Smith said she was able to adapt.
“I definitely had to work on my defensive skill, which isn’t something I’ve always been super strong at,” she said. “It took some work, but I got there.”
Smith said the sport has led to many experiences she never would have had otherwise – creating close bonds with her teammates, traveling for competition, and more.
“Ultimately, I think that sport, as a collective, makes you a better person,” she said. “You learn to work with teams, learn the benefit of a good work ethic, all of these things that are important later on in life, you’re learning in a fun way.”
Hoping for Smith to return
Derrick Brooks, women’s volleyball head coach, said he’s not sure if Smith will come back next year, but definitely hopes she will do so.
“She comes from two athletic parents, so she’s very athletic,” Brooks said. “A strong, offensive player for sure.”
The coach said they’ve worked hard on improving Smith’s defence and passing this year, which he said has made a big difference.
“Overall, I think she was one of the strongest players on the team for sure,” he said.
Although Smith hasn’t confirmed whether or not she’ll be returning to the Mystics, Brooks said if she does, it could help the team medal at the next national championship.
Smith earning the All-Canadian award was also a huge moment for the team, he said.
“She’s strong-willed, she wants to win,” he said. “She took on a lot this year. She’s working and playing volleyball and going to school, so she can do three things at once I guess.
“I think that’s an amazing feat in itself, I couldn’t do it,” he added.