Yukon’s female volleyball team is not under any illusion. They know it will be a tough row to hoe at the Canada Summer Games this August in Sherbrooke, Que.
In all likelihood, they will be facing taller, more experienced teams.
But the Yukon squad is not going to the Games unprepared.
“We have a lot of girls who were on the Arctic Winter Games team, so they’ve played together before, so they do have a good chemistry together,” said head coach Derick Bilodeau. “They just don’t have the experience of game-play the provinces will be bringing. It is a 20-and-under tournament, so a lot of those girls that we will be playing are at first-year university, or playing college ball, or have played their entire careers because they were stars on their high school team.
“We’re always going to be a little behind because of the amount of play they get and the numbers they get. We only had 10 girls come out to tryouts; they’ll start with a roster of 150 and go down to make a team of 12.”
The Yukon team has no post-secondary players but a wealth of major Games experience.
Five players on the roster played for Yukon’s silver-winning team at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games in Whitehorse. That silver represented the best finish by a female team from the Yukon since the 1986 Arctic Games.
Eight players on the current roster, which has not been finalized, played volleyball for the Yukon at the 2011 Western Canada Summer Games in Kamloops, B.C.
Veteran Courtney Greenway played at the 2012 Arctics, the 2011 westerns and the 2010 Arctic Games in Grande Prairie, Alta.
“At the tryouts there were only 10 girls that came out – we’re allowed to take 12 – so that’s why our roster hasn’t been finalized,” said Bilodeau. “The 10 girls that came out are all going. They’ve been coming to practice since January.
“We have two other girls who are only in Grade 8 and 9 … Since we have two open spots on the team, one of the things we could possibly do is take a couple younger players so they can get the experience to play at a higher level, see the higher level of women’s volleyball in Canada. Hopefully they will come back with a renewed enthusiasm … Maybe in four years those couple girls who go with us will be the leaders on the next women’s team at the Canada Summer Games.”
On board for the Games is Robyn Fortune, captain of Yukon’s Western Games volleyball team. She was also captain for Yukon’s gold-winning basketball squad at the 2012 Arctic Games.
There are also some top high school players, such as Daria Jordan, who played for the Yukon championship-winning Porter Creek Rams, and Corey Baxter, who played for the runner-up F.H. Collins Warriors. Both were named to the tournament All-Star team following the Yukon championships in November.
“We’re going to be a strong defensive team, but we’re really still developing it,” said Kiana Palamar, who was captain of the Porter Creek Secondary School Rams senior girls team in her last year of high school. “We have a lot of strong passers. What I really want to see us get better at is our aggressive attacking – not just hitting, but being smart about where we put the ball. That’s how we’re going to win points, because we’re not going to be able to hit it as hard as the girls who are six feet tall.”
Bilodeau also has Games experience. He coached the team at the 2009 Canada Games in P.E.I. with his wife Natasha, who was head coach of Yukon’s female volleyball team at the 2012 Arctic Games.
“This will be a huge step up in the competition … it will be an eye-opener for most of these girls to play at that level,” said Bilodeau. “Some of the girls there will be playing will be on Team Canada some day. For most of these girls it’ll be the highest level they will play at.
“It’s a great experience just being at the Games. The camaraderie of being on Team Yukon … will be something they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.”
The Yukon women’s volleyball team went winless at the 2009 Canada Games.
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org