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2024 Sports Wall of Fame Inductee – Cheri Wright

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  • Pandas Volleyball Outside/Middle (1992-1995, 1996-1998)
  • Three-time CIAU Champion (1995, 1997, 1998)
  • Three-time Canada West Champion (1993, 1995, 1997)
  • Four-time Canada West All-Star (1994, 1995, 1997, 1998) 
  • 1998 Bakewell Trophy Winner
  • 1998 CIAU Championship MVP
  • Competed for Team Canada at 1995 FISU Games in Fukuoka, Japan
  • Canadian National Jr Team Member (1994-1997)

It may be an oversimplification, but winners win. No excuses, no ‘what ifs’, no almosts, no coming up just short. There are just some athletes who have the grit, determination, and drive to be a champion.

And that was Cheri Wright (Lansdown), ‘98 BA; a leader and elite athlete who always found a way to come out on top. Wright was an integral member of the Pandas Volleyball dynasty teams of the late ‘90’s, herself winning three Canada West titles and three national championships between 1992 and 1998.

When Wright first joined the Pandas prior to the 1992 season, she was part of an important crop of talented recruits for young head coach Laurie Eisler. A member of the Edmonton Volleyball Club and a 1991 Club National Champion, Wright joined the Pandas with a winning pedigree from Day 1, helping usher in their nearly decade of dominance. 

“She was one of the top athletes in Alberta in her age group and continued to grow as an athlete and person throughout her career at the University of Alberta,” said Eisler, who coached the Pandas from 1991-2023. “As a competitor, Cheri was gritty and incredibly versatile. She played multiple roles for the team and rose to the occasion regardless of what was asked of her. Cheri
thrived under pressure and brought her very best performances when the team needed her
the most.” 

Her impact with the program was immediate, as the Pandas went on a meteoric rise in the early 90’s. The 1992/93 season saw the Pandas double their win total from the previous season (14 to 28), win 15 of their 16 conference games, and win their first Canada West title in three decades. In what was the Pandas first ever national championship appearance, Wright and the team upset the two-time defending champion Manitoba Bisons in the semifinal, before falling to Winnipeg in the CIAU Final. 

1993/94 was Wright’s first as a starter, and subsequently her first season being named a conference all-star. However the Pandas upward trajectory was delayed – albeit momentarily – that season with a second place finish at the conference level, and sixth place showing at nationals. 

That all changed in 94/95, with the Pandas establishing themselves as the class of the country, winning the first of their six consecutive national titles. Alongside fellow 1995 CW All-Stars Mirka Lindberg (Pribylova) and Joanna Cann (Jenkins), the Pandas were unstoppable, going 16-0 in conference play, and 34-4 across all competition. 

As both the No. 1 seed and tournament hosts, the Pandas defeated UNB and Winnipeg to advance to their second national final in three seasons. In front of nearly 2,100 fans in the UofA’s Main gym, the Pandas bested Laval 3-1 to capture the program’s first CIAU banner. For her efforts, Wright was one of three Pandas named CIAU Tournament All-Stars. 

After missing the 95/96 season due to injury, Wright returned to the Pandas in 1996/97 with similar results. Arguably the best roster of the six-peat, the Pandas went 17-1 in conference play, and 40-1 across the entire season. A 3-2 loss to UBC in early February marked the only blemish on an otherwise perfect season for Alberta. Wright led the Pandas with 149 kills, the eighth most in Canada West, and was once again a national tournament all-star, leading the Pandas to their third-straight national title. 

The pinnacle of Wright’s varsity career came in 1998, when she led the Pandas again to the summit of Canadian university women’s volleyball, capturing nearly individual award on the way. After having switched to left side the year prior, Wright was unstoppable in her final season, being named a CW All-Star, CIAU All-Canadian, and CIAU Tournament All-Star. She led the Pandas with 265 kills and 307 digs, and ranked sixth in CW in kill efficiency. 

She was named the ‘98 CIAU Tournament MVP, and shortly after was awarded the 1998 Bakewell Trophy recipient as the University of Alberta’s Female Athlete of the Year. A truly dominant close to a remarkable varsity career. 

To this day, few Pandas can match Wright’s combination of versatility, athleticism, and team and individual success. Her 3.408 digs/set are third in Pandas history, 3.115 kills/set are seventh, and her 3.452 points/set rank eighth.

Despite having been a Pandas alumnae for nearly two decades, her impact on the program has not lessened. Wright is heavily involved with the Pandas Volleyball Club, acting as both a club team head coach and club manager, helping establish the PVB Club as one of the nations best. 

Cheri Wright (Lansdown) is the 14th Pandas Volleyball athlete to be inducted into the UofA Sports Hall of Fame.

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