Tigers in the News: Sr. Volleyball

Volleyball: Top York House players started at the bottom
York House Tigers channel ambition into process

Megan Stewart, Vancouver Courier, November 7, 2014

Head coach Chris Ruse speaks with Kaleigh (No. 7) during a playoff game at York House Nov. 6, 2014. Photo Dan Toulgoet.
Head coach Chris Ruse speaks with Kaleigh (No. 7) during a playoff game at York House Nov. 6, 2014. Photo Dan Toulgoet.

There are two players on the Tigers volleyball team, both of them stars on a roster that includes three athletes who have already signed on at top North American universities, who were once — if you believe them — the worst players the sport has ever known.

Kaleigh, a six-foot outside hitter, had incredible physical intelligence as a gymnast but no idea how to use her strength, co-ordination or agility to bounce a ball.

“I took a chance and tried out for the Grade 8 volleyball team. I was probably one of the worst players the coach had ever seen,” said Kaleigh. “There were multiple times I’d go up and swing at the ball but just have it land beside me and, in the end, I’d never touch it.”

Siobhan (No. 6) fires the ball past Notre Dame blocker Mia (No. 1) in a playoff game at York House Nov. 6, 2014. Photo Dan Toulgoet.
Siobhan (No. 6) fires the ball past Notre Dame blocker Mia (No. 1) in a playoff game at York House Nov. 6, 2014. Photo Dan Toulgoet.

Then there’s Siobhan, a lithe left-handed power hitter who shot up from five-foot-four to six-foot by the start of Grade 8.

A competitive skier who could visualize every part of downhill course, was selected for the senior team in Grade 9. “I wasn’t particularly skilled but they saw height and, I hope, a bit of potential,” said Siobhan, whose teammates took to the court while she spent hours on a different drill.

“At the beginning of the season, all I did was throw a tennis ball against the wall in a desperate hope to develop arm swing. Apparently it was that hard for me. I had so much arm I didn’t know where it was coming from,” she said. “And I would do spike approaches across the gym floor in a circle for about two hours.”

Siobhan was never embarrassed about taking a different route. “I had accepted my role as the lanky goof and so I played it well, I guess.”

When she finally saw court time in a game, the ball flew over the net at Siobhan — and she caught it. Then she threw it back over the net. The rookie move didn’t hold her back.

“When I started to be able to hit hard, the competitive spirit in me sprang out. I loved that feeling and that still is my favourite part of volleyball when you get that hard, crisp hit.”

Then there’s Laura. According to coaches, including UBC head coach Doug Reimer, for whom she will play next season, it’s possible Laura has never known a sport she didn’t excel at.

A vertical game of power and speed, volleyball is rife with stories of players’ growth spurts and lanky lack of co-ordination. What’s remarkable is what the York House Tigers have done with their potential.

Siobhan and Laura will play for UBC next season. Kaleigh is also good enough to play post-secondary but hasn’t committed to a school. And six-foot-three middle Dayna will play in the NCAA Div. 1 with Tulane.

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