Sports

College career coming to close for Chilliwack volleyballer

Mariah Bruinsma is watching her CIS women’s volleyball career come to an end, gunning for one final championship with her University of British Columbia Thunderbirds. - RICH LAM, UBC THUNDERBIRDS
Mariah Bruinsma is watching her CIS women’s volleyball career come to an end, gunning for one final championship with her University of British Columbia Thunderbirds.
— image credit: RICH LAM, UBC THUNDERBIRDS

Mariah Bruinsma is pretty sure she’ll tear up this weekend, as she delivers her farewell speech to her family, friends, teammates and coaches.

After five years, a hugely successful volleyball career at the University of British Columbia is coming to a close.

And she’s a cryer.

“I know I’ll have to have something written out beforehand, because if I don’t then I’ll get lost and flustered and really start crying,” Bruinsma said.

The Chilliwack native started freaking out about this moment four years ago, as her first year at UBC came to a close.

Sitting on the bench, witnessing her first senior night, the Unity Christian grad was already thinking ahead to the day when she’d be ‘asked to say a few words.’

“I was watching the seniors and I was shocked,” she recalled. “Wow. We have to give a speech?”

Bruinsma hasn’t written her speech yet, at least not fully. But she knows who to thank, what she wants to say and how she wants to say it.

“I haven’t practiced it much because I want it to come from the heart,” she said.

Bruinsma has been fortunate to be included in something special, one of the most dominant women’s volleyball teams Canada has ever seen.

She’s been part of national champions, and her No. 1 ranked T-Birds appear on track to win a fifth.

They won two before she arrived, making them a potential seven year dynasty.

Before losing to the Brandon Bobcats in mid-January, her crew had won 39 straight matches dating back 15 months.

One could say she’s fortunate to have never faced any adversity with this team, but she disagreed.

“We definitely face adversity,” she insisted. “Every year, battling through injuries and sickness — we’ve always managed to get through it with the help of everyone on the bench. It takes everyone to get where we are.”

She remembered arriving as a  freshman, joining a team that was loaded with national- teamers.

“That’s one of the things I’ll put in my speech is a story about my first practice and how oblivious I was,” she laughed. “I was a first-year middle blocker joining this undefeated team, and I couldn’t put up a block. The defence behind me must have been wondering who I was.”

It took a while for her to hit her stride.

Only this year has she truly settled in as a starter.

“The biggest thing I’ve taken away from this is becoming more of a team player,” she said. “One thing (coach) Doug (Reimer) always focuses on is, if you play for the whole team it always works out. I’ve always taken that to heart and I’ll carry it into whatever career I go into. Focus on the whole and it’ll work out.”

Another coach will be in her thoughts and probably in the room when she delivers her senior speech Saturday.

Duncan Harrison, formerly a coach at Highroad Academy and now the Columbia Bible College bench boss, guided Bruinsma’s club team to two BC championships and national bronze.

“With a lot of coaches, you leave high school and you’re not their player anymore and they stop caring,” she said. “But he’s come to my games, met me for coffee and sent me letters of encouragement the whole time. He’s been the biggest mentor in my life and I’m so thankful for that.”

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