This week in Richmond, BC at the Olympic Oval three players from the UBC Okanagan women's volleyball team that competed at the U SPORTS national championships at Laval early this spring, find themselves at the national team selection camp.
Michelle Jakszuk, Aidan Lea, and Ann Richards are among three dozen hopefuls at the camp looking to be among the 20 approximate athletes that will be selected to form the core group of the Senior National team.
With numerous national team players returning there will be few spots to be had. The top 14 will travel to will competitions while the other athletes will remain in Richmond to train at the Oval in preparation for upcoming events.
Michelle Jakszuk, will graduate this June, and is the only of the three Heat players at the camp not returning to the UBCO lineup this fall.
"It's amazing," exclaims Jakszuk when asked about being at the selection camp. "I'm glad that I pursued this amazing opportunity to tryout for the national team. It is a great feeling knowing that all the hard work I've put in these past five years is paying off, because it has given me the chance to compete with and against the best volleyball players in the country. It has always been my dream, and it is surreal to think that I'm actually here."
Nervous at first Michelle relaxed as the sessions wore on.
"Of course there has been a lot of nerves, but I just have to remember that everyone else is in the same boat too. After every session I feel better about my performance and I'm glad I'm feeling more comfortable earlier in the week rather than later."
Michelle's last year was her best at UBCO as she took home a Canada West All-Star, led the team in kills and Co-winner of the UBC Okanagan Female Graduating Player of the Year award.
New to the Heat this year was Ann Richards, the UCF transfer student from Assinboine, Sask. was all year long for the Heat on the outside and looks to make her mark on the national team.
Not Richard's first time with the national program, she also attended the camp in 2016.
"This is my second time trying out for the national team," explains Richards, "two years ago I tried out when it was a different coaching staff and in Winnipeg, [not selected for the final squad] I was told I could stay and train for the summer but was unable because my preseason training in Florida began in June."
Now playing in BC with different dates to the volleyball season in Canada, Ann is looking forward to the tryout now that is closer to her university and fits better within a Canada West schedule. "I am very excited," explains Richards, "it is a great opportunity to be in the gym training with many talented women from across Canada."
Aidan Lea, like Richards, is returning to UBCO next fall. This past year with the Heat Lea, the 6'5" middle blocker from Kelowna, was named a U SPORTS All-Canadian and a Canada West all-Star.
That familiarity with the process from last summer has helped Lea to cope with the pressure of the camp.
"It's definitely a lot different attending this tryout with teammates, from the Heat as well as TC teammates from last year, and from FISU. It's nice knowing what to expect this year, and feeling comfortable in the facility after having trained here all last summer. For those reasons, I think my nerves are a little less, but that's not saying much," explained Lea. "The nature of all tryouts is just a high-stress high-intensity atmosphere, and it's as emotionally draining as physically. Despite that, it's really exciting and really fun to be playing at such a high level again, and overall a really good experience."
If selected the players will represent Canada and will be once again coached by Marcello Abbondanza, who along with his coaching staff, are looking to build upon the success of 2017.
Additionally, the Heat athletes attending the camp will also be identified and evaluated for the National Excellence Program (NEP). The NEP prepares athletes to perform at the highest level of our sport and to continue their development towards the National Senior Team Program and/or laying professional volleyball.
Summer Program Plan 2018 (subject to change):
May 6-11 – Selection camp – Richmond
May 15-21: NORCECA Qualification Tournament to 2019 FIVB Nations League (Edmonton, AB)
June 18-24: World Qualifier to 2019 FIVB Nations League (if qualified, location TBD)
July 6-15: Pan American Cup (qualifier to 2019 Pan American Games, location TBC)
August 17 – Sept 4: Summer Tour (Italy, Turkey)
September 24- October 20: 2018 FIVB World Championships (Japan)