A Port Alberni volleyball player earned a spot on Team BC for the Canada Cup in Vancouver last weekend.
At 16 years old, Port Alberni’s Jenessa Lange has only been playing as a setter for a little over a year, but still managed to earn a spot on the Team BC roster. She and the other division two players finished ninth in their pool during the tournament from July 19-22.
Lange was invited to tryouts for Team BC—first at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo, and then Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, where she took part in weeks of rigorous training.
“The schedule was insane,” she described. “It was really focused on mental training and the mindset of players. Plus since I was a setter, I had extra setter training. My practices were three hours long.”
The tryouts started with about 70 girls from all over the province. By the end, it had been cut down to 26.
“That was really nervewracking,” said Lange. “When I heard my name called, it was like a thousand pounds was lifted off my shoulders.”
After more training, the team travelled down to Vancouver for the games and faced Saskatchewan for their first game. A number of players had been put into new positions, Lange said, and the team wasn’t working very well together.
“We were so shocked by it,” Lange described. “We basically got killed.”
This changed after a weekend of competition, as the girls gained confidence in themselves and each other.
“We killed Saskatchewan in a later game,” laughed Lange. “That was probably the highlight of the whole trip.”
Lange said she started playing volleyball for fun in Grade 4, attending a camp at Neill Elementary School. In Grade 6 she decided to pursue volleyball competitively, quitting her gymnastics team so she would have time to join the club team. By her teenage years, Lange ended up travelling to Parksville to play on their more advanced club team.
“It was just more my pace,” said Lange. “It was what I wanted to be doing.”
She started U15 playing for the Nanaimo Club Mariners, coached by Terrance Palfrey. Lange had to take part in tryouts for the first time in her life.
“I was totally terrified for tryouts,” she laughed. “I had never done anything like that before. I went home bawling my eyes out because I didn’t think I made the team.”
To her surprise, she made the A team. The training was much harder and more fast-paced than she was used to, and because Lange was also playing hockey and basketball, she struggled to fit schoolwork into her busy schedule.
“There were some days I didn’t get home until 11,” she said.
Lange said she was “pushed” into her position as a setter by her former Port Alberni coach Kym Cyr.
“I hated it,” she laughed. “I was so frustrated.”
But over the past few years, she has “fallen in love” with the position. She learned many of the fundamentals of the position from men’s volleyball star and coach Drew Venables, who is a setter himself.
“[The setter] is like the quarterback of the team,” Lange described. “I guess I fell in love with being in charge,” she added with a laugh.
Lange played on the Alberni District Secondary School volleyball team last year, grabbing a spot on the senior team even though she was only in Grade 10. Next year, she will get an automatic invite to the women’s select team and the national team. By her Grade 12 year, Lange said she hopes to be committed to a university with a scholarship for volleyball.
“I’ve got to start getting in contact with coaches now,” she said. She will be visiting some universities in Ontario this summer.
Ultimately, she hopes to join a kinesiology program and become a physiotherapist for a competitive team.