40-year-old volleyball star leading historic season for Mount Royal University Cougars

The Mount Royal Cougars volleyball team is in the midst of its best season in the university’s history. It’s thanks, in no small part, to one of its star players affectionately known as “Grandma.”

“You can hear the bones creaking a little bit here and there with ole Grandma,” head coach Sandra Lamb joked. “She’s really enjoying it and she’s done a lot for this group.”

At 40 years old, Tasha Holness has returned to university for one last chance at USPORTS championship after nearly a decade away.

“The only thing I don’t have in my arsenal is a university national championship. It would be nice if we get it this year,” Holness said.

The 6’2″ middle started her volleyball career back in 2003 when she walked into the wrong tryouts.

“Tasha came in and jumped and grabbed the rim and I just thought: ‘That’s going to be one good basketball team,’” Lamb said.

“I was warming up, shooting hoops and interrupted the volleyball tryouts,” Holness explained. “She just said: ‘You’re playing for me,’ and that’s how that started!”

In the years since, Holness has played professional volleyball across Europe and Asia and suited up for Team Canada for eight years.

Now in the twilight of her career, she’s mentoring the next generation of elite players.

“I’m really wanting to play pro when I graduate and she’s really helping me with the process,” middle Dholi Thokbuom said.

“I’ve been with the national team last year — hopefully going to be there again this year — and she’s been my role model and the person who can answer all my questions.”

“She is a firecracker,” Chantel Park added. “She has been from the second I met her. She is just so goofy and brings that onto the court along with such professionalism. It just breeds confidence.”

The Cougars are on a roll after going 21-3 through the regular season and defeating the defending champion UBC Thunderbirds in the Canada West quarterfinal on Feb. 23.

As playoffs continue, Holness has a role model of her own watching from the stands.

“My mom hasn’t missed any of my games since I started at MRU,” Holness said. “She’s really enjoying that because when I was playing overseas she didn’t get to see me play a lot, even with the national team because we were travelling.”

The Cougars kick off the Canada West semifinal against the University of Alberta Pandas Friday at MRU’s Kenyon Court.

The USPORTS national volleyball championship will be held at the University of Calgary’s Jack Simpson Gymnasium from March 13-15.

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