Elphinstone Secondary grad Taylor Whittall of Roberts Creek has taken her volleyball talents to the Kootenays.
Whittall, who graduated last year, is in her rookie season as an outside hitter with the College of the Rockies (COTR) Avalanche women’s volleyball squad.
Whittall said she was attracted to the Cranbrook school because it offered a chance to continue in her sport under excellent coaches and a unique academic program through its connection with the faculty of education at the University of Victoria.
She also said balancing sport and academic life at the college level has taken some adjustment. “There’s a lot of support here, which is really nice, so they’ve made it really easy.”
So far this season, Whittall has started in four of the Avalanche’s eight matches and come in as a substitute in the others. She’s also in the PACWEST division’s top 15 for total offensive stats.
The team is 4-4, which has them holding on to a playoff spot, and Whittall says one of the big highlights of the season has been defeating the defending champion VIU Mariners, who had a record of 6-0 heading into their Nov. 10 match with COTR. The Avalanche managed a hard-fought 3-1 win to upset VIU, but ended up losing to the Mariners the following night.
Whittall saw action in both games.
“It was a really big deal and super-exciting for us,” she said. “They were ranked number one in Canada, and we knocked them down to number two. It was a really big win.”
Whittall is one of many local grads to make their mark in women’s volleyball at the post-secondary level and she said young players on the Sunshine Coast have benefitted from top-notch coaches, including former national team members like Jan Richey, whose daughter Kyla also went on to play at the national level, and John Brisebois.
“We have amazing coaches on the Coast. I started playing in Grade 5 and it was because of Jan Richey. My brother had played before me and played for her… She’s such an inspiration for any girl who wants to play volleyball on the Coast. That’s really amazing to be a part of.”
The PACWEST season runs until mid-February and Whittall said she and her teammates are focused on staying in the playoff hunt. “Our goal is definitely to make sure we’re in the top five and get into the playoffs, because it really doesn’t matter as long as you make it in, and the playoffs is where you really want to show what you can do and place first or second to make it into nationals.”
The Avalanche open a four game road-trip Thursday; they will play back-to-back games against Abbottsford’s Columbia Bible College and the University of the Fraser Valley Cascades.