With the high school season recently wrapping up, volleyball is back in full swing with high numbers.
More than 40 athletes attended the Arctic Winter Games trials for the popular team sport that started Thursday evening at Porter Creek Secondary School.
Running both the male and female trials at the same time for the two 10-player teams, the first day of the two-day trials had a large turnout, more than most other sports so far in the trialling season.
AWG mission staff for volleyball Jane Londero said an ID camp was held the day after the high school Yukon Volleyball Championships and those numbers saw 31 female and 25 males in attendance.
“They intentionally held it so the kids who had been to the yukon championships from Watson Lake, Dawson, some kids from Mayo and Teslin, so they were able to attend it,” Londero said. “It will be interesting to see if they’re here this week.”
Two first-time AWG coaches will be taking the teams to N.W.T. in March. Experienced Yukon volleyball player Melissa Laluk will be the head coach of the female team after recently coaching the 2017 Canada Summer Games team.
Nail Sultanau, originally from Belarus, will be the coach of the male team after helping coach the Vanier Catholic Secondary School senior boy’s team this past season.
There will be two separate trials for volleyball, Londero explained, but athletes are encouraged to attend both weekends if they are able to. The first trial will wrap up this evening with the second weekend slated for Jan. 6-7.
The two trial sessions quickly took different directions with Laluk and her evaluation team starting with player introductions and focusing on communication between the players, forcing them to line up on multiple occasions by first name and later by last name.
“All I’m asking for today is to see them compete so every drill we’re doing they’re trying to win, every drill,” Laluk said before the trial. “See who’s going to compete and who’s going to win.”
On the male side, the team hopefuls were divided into three groups and immediately started being tested on skills with three circuits of push ups, standing jumps and digging volleyballs quickly while sprinting across the court to reach them.
Even though the high school season is over for the year, Laluk said she didn’t expect a lot of rust from the players because most of them are going through club tryouts right now as well for Subzero Volleyball Club and the new Heat Yukon Volleyball Club specifically focused on U14 and U15 boys and girls teams.
Because of the competitive club season taking place through the winter, Laluk said that will likely be the focus for most of the members on the team and will impact if the AWG team will head out of the territory for a tournament before the Games.
“It depends on the team, my priority for them is to play their club,” Laluk explained. “If it ends up being possible there’s potentially one in early February that we could go to in Kelowna.”
With the high level of talent from the Yukon volleyball scene, picking only 10 players is not an easy thing to do and Londero said that is part of the reason why the trials have been split into two weekends after being only one for the last AWG.
“I think having the school system and also the club system have really helped basically make volleyball a year-round sport for a lot of these players,” Londero said.
Since volleyball at the Games only has one team per gender, Londero said the ages could be quite varied and a few players from the 2016 Games male team who have gone off to college are still eligible and have returned for the trials.
At the 2016 Games, the male team finished with a silver medal while the female team finished in fifth.