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A sensational sophomore season for volleyball ace Paige Owen

'After I had a good rookie year last year, I knew my second year had to be that much better'

Pursuit is a sports feature series highlighting athletes, coaches, and staff and significant sporting events from North Bay and the surrounding area.                     


After earning OUA First Team All-Star honours in her first season, Paige Owen followed that up by being named the Nipissing Lakers Womens Volleyball team MVP in her sophomore year.  

“I'm really happy and proud to win the MVP award this year. There's a lot of hard work behind the scenes that goes into a season that turns out to be this successful, so I'm very honoured to be recognized for it.” 

The year was filled with some impressive accomplishments. Owen finished with 250 kills, 292 points, 4.2 average points per set and a second straight First Team All-Star recognition. She achieved her 400th kill in just her second season, and on Nov. 30, 2023, the outside hitter was named as one of the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) athletes of the week after she had a huge match versus Waterloo posting 40 kills, 49.5 points and five aces in the Lakers two wins versus Waterloo that weekend.  

Owen says she set a high standard for herself after her first season.  

“After I had a good rookie year last year, I knew my second year had to be that much better. I worked hard on improving my mental game and strengthening my body and, despite a few injuries, it paid off for me this year. I'm very proud to have received this award and wouldn't have been able to do it without my incredible team.” 

The Cambridge, Ont., born athlete wound up at Nipissing after a recruiter attended her club team practice in Hamilton.  

“I was on the fence initially. It was four hours away from home,” recalls Owen. “I made a trip to North Bay for a weekend, got to know the girls and the coaches and I immediately recognized that no other team felt like this one.”  

Owen says the team culture was evident from that first weekend.  

“That was the selling point for me. I talked to a lot of coaches before talking to [Lakers Head Coach] Mark Larochelle and it came down to finding the right program and the right fit for me. I’m in the Phys Ed program and concurrently in education and he helped get me administered into those programs. I knew there were a lot of options out there, but the culture of the group was super important to me.”  

Owen explains when you’re spending every day with your teammates there needs to be a comfort factor there.  

“Mark really pushed for me to get to know the team and for them to get to know me. I also got to know the assistant coaches and hearing their insight about the team and the school really helped solidify my decision to come here.” 

“It was still hard to get used to being so far away from family, but Mom and Dad still make it to every home game and away game which made everything easier that first year.” 

Owen says there was a big learning curve as she began in first year in the OUA.  

“I was super nervous when the season started. It took some time to get used to the competition, the bigger crowds and the more weight each game takes on. The more I played the more comfortable I started to get and I felt I really started to find my own game as the season went on. There were some ups and downs as there are in any season, but I was really happy with the results and the opportunity to play as much as I did,” she says. 

And that first year was not an insignificant one. On top of her First Team All-Star selection, Owen was also a co-recipient of the Rookie of the Year award, alongside Ocean Raymond-Leduc

“I came in last year not knowing what to expect. University is a big step up from club play, and it's not common to get that opportunity in your rookie year to have the type of season I had. Knowing that I was going to start I knew I had to take advantage of the playing time and get a head start there,” she says.  

“OC was one of my close friends last year and we both played the same position so we went through the same learning process together and it was really nice to have someone by my side that I could connect with, bounce ideas off of, and just support each other.” 

Owen says that support was also evident within the team culture and credits that for being one of the big reasons for her success in year one.  

“It started in practice. As a young player, there is always this intimidation factor playing at this level for the first time, but because we were practicing every day and every night I was able to get used to the level of play and learning about the intensity that comes with each game.” 

Owen says the other big change was going from playing games that were best-of-three sets to games that were best of five.  

“You really have to prepare your body to potentially play two five-set games in two days. I got into learning good habits really quickly and making sure that my body was able to recover was something that was important to me right from the start because if I didn’t focus on that I would not be able to get through some of those weekends – let alone a long season,” she says. 

 The Lakers finished the 2023-24 campaign with an 11-9 record, the best season they have had since joining the OUA (Ontario University Athletics). 

“In my first year we unfortunately didn't make the playoffs, but we worked so hard to push for a playoff position this year. This was the highest finish the team has had in program history, that alone was a huge accomplishment,” says Owen.  

The Lakers were eliminated in the first round by the Queen’s Gaels.  

“We want more than just making it to the playoffs, we want to win in the playoffs. I think after reaching that point this year, we all have a different mindset going into the next season. We know that if we work hard at every practice and work towards our goals, then good things will come. I am fully confident about our team next year and the years to come and I'm so excited to see what this team is going to do.” 

If you have a story idea for “Pursuit” send Matt an email at [email protected]  

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Matt Sookram

About the Author: Matt Sookram

Matthew Sookram is a Canadore College graduate. He has lived and worked in North Bay since 2009 covering different beats; everything from City Council to North Bay Battalion.
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