This is part of an ongoing series of profiles to highlight the achievements of Sheridan's varsity student athletes academically and competitively. To view the rest of the Student Athlete Spotlight profiles, click here.
THERE ARE SO many moments of athleticism writ large in volleyball that the fundamental skills can often be overlooked. In that way, the role of a setter is comparable to the tires on a Ferrari - you simply don't notice how important something is until it's missing.
"Good setters must have a very high volleyball IQ. They must understand the game and be aware of everything that's happening," women's volleyball head coach Scott Hunt says. "They touch the ball almost every rally and control the flow of the offence, so they must be strong leaders."
Hunt now faces the unenviable task of replacing one of the program's best this fall, trying to fill the void left by reigning Sheridan Female Athlete of the Year Joelle Parnham, who recently graduated from the Bachelor of Athletic Therapy program. A three-year starter over a four-year period, Parnham is a former OCAA All-Star, a team MVP, a Coaches Award winner, and holds nearly every school record possible for a setter, with match (49), season (478), and career (1,363) assist marks on her resume.
She also holds the distinction of the highest cumulative winning percentage of any Sheridan women's volleyball player over the last two decades, which is precisely where the specifics of her impact make the shift from quantitative to qualitative. Due to the rigors of an intensive third-year Athletic Therapy field placement schedule and with only one year of eligibility remaining, Parnham did not play during the 2016-17 campaign. When she returned from her one year hiatus, her impact was felt immediately.
"Joelle was a very smart player for us," Hunt says. "She was able to determine which players on our team were most effective in each phase of the game, and was also able to identify opponent weaknesses and exploit them with intelligent setting choices. For those reasons, she was able to create and lead an effective offence."
In addition to providing leadership and overseeing an attack that produced more kills, less errors, and hit at a more efficient rate, she was also a stabilizing defensive force, leading the team with 149 digs. The result of those improvements was more wins, a fourth place regular season finish that unlocked a home playoff game, and a run to the OCAA medal round for the first time since 1998.
While Parnham's varsity athletic career is now complete, her post-secondary one is not. Having arrived at Sheridan after two years at Durham College - where she earned a Fitness and Health Promotion diploma - she will attend Western University in the fall, enrolling in the Master of Physical Therapy program. It will be the culmination of a long academic journey, but Parnham is prepared for the commitment and is taking a key lesson from the Sheridan classroom with her.
"I learned that if you put in the time and effort to learn the material, you cannot fail," she says.
Although the women's volleyball team fell just short of ending a 20-year medal drought last season, Parnham is comfortable with how her OCAA and Sheridan careers concluded.
"On the court, success isn't measured by what medal you get at the end of the season," she says. "It's based on how you grow as an athlete and a person."