BY KALISHA MENDONSA
Lacombe-born Laura MacTaggart has made headlines across the country with her volleyball success – especially after scoring the winning point in the gold medal game at the recent 2017 Women’s Volleyball National Championship.
For MacTaggart, this volleyball success has been a long time coming. She said she’s is truly overwhelmed with appreciation for her sport, her team and those who encouraged her to pursue a love of volleyball.
The University of British Columbia (UBC) Thunderbirds put on a great performance, defeating the University of Alberta (U of A) Golden Bears 3-1 sets, earning them the official title of the 2017 U Sports Women’s Volleyball Champions.
“Edmonton had been on top all year, so for us to beat them in the final was a big deal. I’ve been back on campus for awhile now, and we got to have a banquet with the President of UBC and the President of Athletics and all of these honours. I’m kind of still coasting on a high from winning this – it’s kind of hard to get my head out of the clouds. I’m trying to enjoy it, it’s just so exciting,” said MacTaggart in a phone interview with the Express.
She said the final game against Alberta was a tough one, well fought by both sides. Ultimately, though, she said she is thrilled with the results.
“It was really exciting and great for us to beat (U of A). We didn’t have an easy semi-final, and I think that was important for us. That said, we had a lot of positive momentum going into the final, and had a really strong group of seniors on our team. They are excellent leaders, and really got our team pumped up before the game, by singing a little rap they wrote for us. We had a big team dinner before and our spirits were really high,” she said.
She said the team headed into the final with steady heads, and that they were well-rested and ready to get to work.
Despite the roaring crowd, photographers, film crews and the immense pressure of the championship title looming overhead, the UBC Thunderbirds brought the storm and came out on top of the tournament. MacTaggart said she and her teammates had been working hard to prepare for this moment, and were completely zoned in to win.
What was particularly special for her during this game, though, was the pride in being able to secure the game-winning point.
“That was such a special moment. I was able to score that gold medal winning point, and they filmed that point. It got spread on social media, and all my friends and family and old teammates and coaches all got to see that moment with me,” she said.
MacTaggart has had to overcome several significant injuries, including a severe concussion and reconstructive ankle surgery, to be able to play at the calibre she does.
She said it was a difficult season for her, coming in late after living with the post-concussion side effects, so this victory was all the more sweet in the end.
“Dealing with those post-concussion symptoms, you have to really manage your life differently. I’m always cautiously optimistic about my career. I know anything can happen, but it’s absolutely a dream of mine to be a part of that national team,” she said.
MacTaggart has in fact been on the National Women’s Volleyball team, and is looking forward to trying out once more. This year, the National Women’s training camp will be held in B.C. as opposed to Manitoba and MacTaggart said she’s feeling confident about her ability to secure a coveted spot on the team.
Despite her numerous successes in her field, one of the most notable aspects of MacTaggart’s career – according to her – is where she got her start.
“I’ve always been very lucky to have the support that I’ve had to be able to get where I am. I’m from a farm outside of Lacombe, and now I’m living in Vancouver and play for the best team in the country. You can’t help but recognize the special people and things that you get in life to help you grow,” she said.
“I had a wonderful, wonderful program in Lacombe in particular. I had an excellent coach, Linda Richtor, who won a provincial award for her coaching and volleyball programs. Not everybody has the opportunity to have a mentor like that.”