The men’s volleyball team Yukon will send to the 2013 Canada Summer Games is arguably the most experienced the territory has ever selected for the quadrennial event.
The team, which was announced this week, is filled with players who have competed at past Games, national championships and the post-secondary level.
“The proof is always in the pudding, but it’s a great bunch kids,” said Yukon head coach Russ Tait. “I know they’re all going to work hard.
“There’s lots of work to do between now and the Games.”
Not only do most of the players have experience representing the territory, many have donned gold medals after doing so.
Four players were on Yukon’s gold medal winning team at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games in Whitehorse. It was the first gold for the Yukon in boys volleyball in 26 years.
Six played for Yukon’s U18 men’s rep volleyball team, Sub Zero, last year. That team won Tier 3 to place 17th overall out of 64 of the country’s best teams at the 2012 Canadian Open Volleyball Championships in Toronto. It is the highest a Yukon team has ever finished at the nationals in the 18U men division.
Six played for Team Yukon at the 2011 Western Canada Summer Games in Kamloops, a squad that took sets off Saskatchewan and bronze-winning B.C.
The team even has a player making his second trip to the Canada Games.
Front-liner Robin Smith, 20, competed for the Yukon in volleyball at the 2009 Canada Summer Games in P.E.I.
With the final stage in the selection process having only taken place on Sunday, he wasn’t volunteering any assessments of the team.
“It’s tough for us to tell before we actually compare ourselves against these teams,” said Smith. “We feel like we could be better than last time but it’s hard to tell until you play them.”
Smith and four others competed on post-secondary teams this past school year.
Smith played for Red Deer College in the 2011-12 season before transferring to Camosun College last year. In the 2011-12 season Red Deer finished first in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) league and lost in the provincial finals.
Mason Gray and Lowell Tait played for the Grant MacEwan University Griffins in Edmonton this past season.
Albert Spycher played right-side for the Keyano College Huskies in Fort McMurray, Alta.
Mike Hunter played outside for the Grande Prairie Regional College Wolves.
“It’s nice to have the experience from the players who were playing at college,” said Russ. “That’s what we always work towards as a long-term goal: to have guys play at college.”
Yukon’s men’s team had two college-level players at the 2009 Games and none in 2005.
“Team Alberta, B.C., Ontario – it’s all university players,” said Tait. “You’re still climbing a big hill.
“There’s the potential to beat some maritime teams. That would be pretty cool.”
A captain has not been selected yet, but there are plenty of candidates with captain experience.
Jon Koltun was captain of this year’s U18 boys Sub Zero team and captain of the Vanier Crusaders senior boys team in high school play.
Lowell Tait was captain of last year’s U18 boys Sub Zero team.
Hunter was captain of the gold-winning Arctic Games team.
Smith captained the Western Canada Summer Games team in Kamloops.
To help with the selection process, which took place over three days ending on Sunday, the team’s coaching staff brought Dave Dooley to Whitehorse. Dooley is head coach for Victoria Volleyball Association U18 team and an assistant coach at Camosun College.
He was impressed by the work ethic and energy he witnessed on the court.
“They’re a scrappy bunch of guys, they work really hard,” said Dooley. “If you have that attitude in practice, it transfers over to the game. It could turn into a lot of success for them.
“They’re a high-energy team.”
The 2013 Canada Summer Games will take place this August in Sherbrooke, Que.
Yukon’s team went winless at the 2009 Games in P.E.I.
Contact Tom Patrick at
Head coach: Russ Tait
Tory Wiebe and Janna Tait