To this day, their dynasty is among the best in Canadian University Sport history. It propelled their program into the upper echelon of Canadian Women’s Volleyball, and kick-started over two decades of success.
The University of Alberta Pandas Volleyball team captured six-straight CIAU Women’s Volleyball National Championships from 1995-2000, which solidified their status as one of the premiere programs in the nation. Since joining the Canada West conference in 1972, the Pandas had been stuck as a ‘tweener program. Never truly challenging for a national title, and yet never lower than sixth in Canada West. Between 1972 and 1991, the Pandas earned three Canada West silver medals, without a single appearance at the national championship. They registered just one winning season, a 7-5 conference record in 1978/79.
That all changed with the hiring of their new head coach, Laurie Eisler. Eisler joined the Pandas after two seasons as a coach with the Saskatchewan Huskies, and ushered in a new era for the Pandas program. The Pandas finished fourth in 1991/92, before capturing their first Canada West title in 1993, Eisler’s second year at the helm. Things truly took off in 1994/95, as the Pandas went a perfect 16-0 during conference play, winning their second conference title, before winning their first-ever national championship. That title started the Pandas reign of dominance, which included six-straight national titles, four conference championships, and two conference silver medals.
Between the 1995 and 2000 seasons, the Pandas owned Canada West competition with an eye-popping 98-12 combined regular season record across the six seasons.
The 1995-2000 teams also won four Canada West titles, produced numerous Canadian university sport major award winners, all-Canadians and academic all-Canadians, as well as the U of A’s first ever BLG award winner as top Canadian university sport athlete of the year.
The 1995-2000 Pandas volleyball dynasty teams have been inducted onto the U of A Sports Wall of Fame. The team as a whole, led by standout players such as Jenny Cartmell, Miroslava Pribylova and Shandra Doran, was inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame in 2002.
The Pandas are one of only three teams to ever win six-straight WVB national titles, including the Winnipeg Wesmen (1982-1988) and the UBC Thunderbirds (2007-2013).
Since 2000, the Pandas have added to their legacy with a seventh CIS Championship in 2007, as well as Canada West titles in 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2012, and 2017. Eisler has earned seven conference coach of the year awards, and three national coach of the year awards. Entering the 2019 U SPORTS Championship in Edmonton, she is the winningest coach in University of Alberta history with 786 career wins, and has the second most conference wins ever, with 394.
Simply put, the 1995-2000 Pandas will go down as one of the most prolific dynasties in University of Alberta history.