Hamilton, ON- Early on in her McMaster Marauders career, Paige Entwistle learned the value of confidence.
It’s been a theme throughout her university career. The fifth-year outside hitter said she still works on it.
Going into their games against Western and York this past weekend, she pointed out how she was “struggling with it a lot.” In contrast, she pointed out how she played really well against Western and York.
“As long as you have good confidence and you know that you can do it, that’s where a lot of my playing well comes from,” she noted. “It’s very mental.”
Against Western, she had 11 points, 10 kills and nine digs. The Marauders won the first two sets before the Mustangs fought back to tie it at 2-2. In the final set, McMaster prevailed 15-12. She set up the winning point for teammate Christine Hachokake.
After a short turn-around the following evening – the team didn’t arrive back in Hamilton until two o’clock in the morning of game day – Entwistle put together another stellar performance. She finished with 9.5 points, six kills and 12 digs as the Marauders beat York three sets to one.
Marauders head coach Tim Louks said Entwistle was the team’s player of the game against Western and followed it up with a great game against York. He credited her receiving.
It’s been a journey for the Jerseyville native. She came into the team in 2018-19 after showing up at tryouts as a walk on. She made the team and played three matches.
“In my first year, I struggled with it a lot because I was injured” she said. “I wasn’t playing and I had no confidence.”
Entwistle played more in her second season. Her third season was cancelled due to COVID. When play resumed in 2021-22, she set a then career-high in games played.
She remembers how she used to be very nervous before games. As the years have gone by, her nerves have subsided. Meanwhile, her confidence has grown.
“I think she now believes in herself a lot more,” Louks said. “We’re starting to see that match to match.”
Her teammates, coaches, opponents and those in the crowd at the Burridge Gym saw it against Western and York.
How does Entwistle find that confidence? It comes from being in the right mental state. Finding that has been a journey as well.
Entwistle said she’s tried mindfulness and meditation. However, she didn’t find it was really for her.
She found positive reinforcement helped. “It’s more like telling myself: ‘You’re fine. You can do it. You’re good’,” she recalled.
When Entwistle finds herself not playing well or having doubt, she also tries to remember times when she was confident and played really well.
“It’s easy to hold onto the negatives but it’s important to forget about those and try and remember the positives,” she added. “When I remember those moments, it reminds me of what I am capable of and raises my confidence.”
It’s not easy though. She pointed how on serving and receiving, it can be easy to get into her head. She can be focused but sometimes too focused. She had plenty of practice receiving against Western and York.
“I used to tell myself: ‘Just relax,” she recalled. “That kind of gets the other thoughts out of my head.”
The key is trying to forget those other thoughts in those moments. The key is to get into the rhythm of the game.
While Entwistle continues to figure out her mental game, she’s also been helping her younger sister Payton adjust to university volleyball.
Due to the two sisters being four years apart, this season’s the first time they’ve played on the same team.
However, Paige said it’s felt very natural and normal. When they’re on the court together, Payton feels like another teammate to her.
This season, they’ve spent a lot more time together – as much as they ever have – with practices, games and classes together. “That’s kind of cool to be able to get closer with her,” Paige noted.
As she watches Payton experience her first season, she remembers the struggles of her first year as well.
Like with herself, Paige also provides Payton with reinforcement, telling her “You’re fine. It’s good” when she notices her sister is having a tough practice or not in a great mood. They talk about different experiences and how Payton feels about things.
Confidence can also be built from performance. Payton made her regular season debut against Lakehead on Oct. 4. The first-year setter played one set and had three assists. Against Western, she played in all five sets and recorded a career-high seven assists as well as two digs. Against York, she followed it up with six assists and another two digs.
“Her confidence is growing as she gets more [playing time] as well, which is nice to see,” Paige noted.
Louks said Paige’s support and experience of having gone through it has helped Payton settle in quicker. “I think Paige has been a good, big sister,” he added.
The big sister has yet to decide if this is her final season. She still has another year of eligibility left. Entwistle said she still has to figure out her schooling in terms of whether she’ll return.
Even though she graduated at the end of last season, she didn’t feel like she was finished. “When it was done, I was like ‘that’s not enough’,” she said.
Regardless of whether it is her last season or not, Entwistle will continue to try and build her confidence. She’s also treating this season like it’s her last and embracing the moments.
“Mostly be grateful for the experience. It’s gone by so fast,” Entwistle said. “I love my teammates. I think that’s the biggest part. Just liking the people around you, loving the game and just knowing that the end is coming.”
Featured Image: Rick Zazulak/McMaster Athletics