Consider it an added bonus for the majority of the Northern Chill Volleyball Club athletes.
The wrap-up of the Ontario Volleyball Association (OVA) provincial championships last month would often spell the end of the season for the young ladies, who began practicing back in September, taking part in tournaments across the province throughout the winter.
But 2012 has a little extra surprise in store. The 2012 Volleyball Canada Nationals are being staged, this weekend, in Toronto, and with the competition open to teams from across the country and taking place so close to home, the Sudbury contingent made the trek south.
Four of the five Chill teams opted to make the trip, providing for something of a "second chance" for squads who might have hoped for a mulligan at the all-Ontario playdowns in April.
"We didn't achieve our goals at provincials, but if you look at the season as a whole, it was really successful," U-18 middle Kailey Bastien said at a practice earlier this month, preparing for nationals.
"I think we just have to settle down after we make a mistake and let that point go, move on to the next point," Bastien, the veteran of the Confederation Charger program, said.
Currently in her third year with the Chill, Bastien noted the natural attrition that tends to occur as the end of high school nears, with the academic demands coupled with the need to find part-time work often taking its toll on the U-18 division.
"This year, we were a smaller group, but we really came together," Bastien said. "Personally, I really improved a lot this year. My free ball passing has come together, and my blocking and hitting."
An undersized middle by OCAA standards, Bastien said she is looking forward to the next step in her volleyball career next fall, even if it requires a fair bit of flexibility at her end.
"I don't care where (what position) I'll be playing, I'm going to be playing for Cambrian — and that pumps me up," she said.
At the other end of the spectrum, Lasalle Secondary Grade 10 middle/right side Emily Clark made the leap of faith this year, jumping over to club ball, albeit with a little assistance.
"I went to the Kabuum Summer Volleyball Camp and Mr. T. (Craig Thomson) dragged me out," Clark said with a laugh. "I improved on pretty much everything — my defensce, my offence and my serving."
Despite playing as a middle with the Lancers, Clark jumped at the opportunity to make the move to right side with the U-16 Chill girls, noting a change in the demands of the respective positions.
"I like the move, it's a lot less work," Clark said. "At middle, you always have to block on both sides."
Falling right in the middle, the U-17 Chill girls experienced something of a "ping pong" season, according to veteran Meagan Flewelling, offsetting some outstanding tournament performances with others the team would like back.
"I think we were meant to be in the higher division, because we can compete with those teams in the higher division," Flewelling said. "But when our service receive is bad, we fall apart. If you can't pass, you can't hit, you can't execute the offence."
Despite a loss in their Sunday morning game at provincials, the tournament proved quite successful for the Sudbury U-17 crew, playing some of their best volleyball of the season and continuing their progression as a group.
"We've grown as a team, there's better communication," Flewelling said. "We're tighter knit, which really helps us on the court."
Along with the U-16, U-18 and U-15 Chill club teams, the U-17 ladies were thankful for one extra shot at glory at the 2012 nationals.
Posted by Laurel Myers