Two Terrace youth, Levi Ewald and Jacey Neid, got a taste of higher calibre volleyball on under-16 Team BC this summer, and are shooting for university ball in the future.
To earn their positions in U16, both players from Terrace made it at a regional tryout in Prince George and a provincial tryout in Kamloops. Ewald has been playing on the Centennial Christian School team and Neid on the Skeena Middle School team and the Terrace Rage club team.
Both players were thrown into new positions at the tryouts: Previously setters, they were challenged to hit and receive — Levi as a power and Neid as a right side hitter.
U16 girls coach Jeff Ross said they asked Neid to switch because of her athletic ability and arm swing, and they felt she would do well there. “The transition went really well,” Ross said. “I thought she had an immediate impact on the right side.”
Neid said it was tough to adapt to the right side, especially with the nerves and pressure of a tryout, and she was shocked to make the cut.
“It was a big change… I didn’t think I had a chance,” Neid said. “When they said my number, I was very surprised.”
In a similar situation on the boys team, Ewald said much the same, and felt a bit behind other players in terms of experience and knowledge of drills.
“I haven’t played power… it was a bit different, [figuring out] where to stand and everything,” he said. “I was pretty surprised [to make the team].All 70 of the players gathered at the end, and they named off the ones who made it. I was number 42, and that was the last one that they called,” he said. “It was kind of nerve-wracking.”
The U16 boys nationals were in Kingston, Ontario, and the B.C. Blue boys finished fourth in Canada. They lost their first two games against Alberta, who was ranked second, and against Ontario, ranked fourth.
But the boys picked up their game on day two, beating both Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island in three straight sets.
Ewald said the first day they were nervous and made a lot of unforced errors, but they improved a lot after they got going.
In a quarter final rematch, they upset Ontario in five sets, and then faced the B.C. B.C. Red team in the semi final.
An early injury, with a player’s arm being bent backwards and dislocated, really shook the team in the semis. Ewald said several players were sick and shaken and did not play after that. The team lost the semis in three sets, and then lost the bronze medal game against Alberta to finish fourth.
“Every game was really close,” Ewald said. “I thought we played really good. We came in ranked eighth, so we played some tough teams early. Our goal was to get top four, so we achieved our goal.”
Ewald said the best part of the experience was beating Ontario and making a bunch of new friends.
Inspired to tryout for Team BC by Evan Veldman and Lucas Mantel, who played u17 this year, Ewald said he hopes to one day play university ball.
The U16 girls nationals were in Vancouver, and B.C. Blue girls finished fifth of 15 teams in Canada. They launched into the tournament with a tight win against Puget Sound, Washington, in five sets.
Next they faced Alberta, losing the first set and coming back to win the next three.
The next day they beat a second Alberta team in a close, tight game to five sets. They rounded off the string of games with a strong victory in three sets against another Puget Sound team. That put them into the crossover quarter final against Ontario, a tough game where they rallied hard, but lost in four sets, partly caving to pressure, Neid said.
That loss matched them against Manitoba in a battle for fifth place, and they conquered the team in three sets.
Neid said the volleyball was extremely intense, with a serious mindset and players driven to achieve and improve.
“I learned to adapt to different people’s playing styles and different coaching styles,” she said, adding that she really enjoyed making new friends. “This was my best volleyball experience so far,” she said.
Looking ahead, Neid said she is inspired by Terrace girls Cassidy Kitchen and Carley Davies, who played Team BC and earned volleyball scholarships here.
Neid hopes to play university ball in the future, and try her hand at coaching some day.