MECCA OF DEVELOPMENT Eight former and current U of A volleyball athletes compete for Canada’s senior national teams.
The smell of evergreen is pungent as Canada’s national volleyball teams prepare for the upcoming summer Olympics with rosters chock full of former and current Bears and Pandas athletes.
In total, eight players on the men’s and women’s senior national teams are occupied by athletes that have spent time honing their volleyball prowess under the roof of the Main Gym. The number of U of A athletes is overwhelming, and something that current Athletics Director Ian Reade takes a tremendous amount of pride in.
But it’s also a number that is a reflection of what he already knew — that Green and Gold volleyball is one of the most dynamic varsity programs in the country.
“It’s a testament to what our coaches have done, in terms of recruiting the best athletes coming out of high schools and club levels and then providing those athletes with the best opportunities to develop their skills,” Reade said. “It’s certainly an unbelievable legacy of those programs. It’s what a university support program is supposed to do — to develop athletes so that they can move on after they graduate, or even in the middle of their university careers, to go on and play at the highest level. In this case, it’s a very successful example.”
For Nick Cundy, one of the former Bears on the men’s national team, the experiences he gained as a left-side hitter during his tenure with the Golden Bears from 2003-2007 have proven invaluable during his last five years competing at the highest international level.
Under the guidance of Bears head coach Terry Danyluk — a former Olympian for Team Canada himself — Cundy said that he was able to build a foundation that allowed him to progress to the highest level of volleyball in Canada.
“It helped me get where I am today. You’re a product of your associations, and to be associated with a coach that was one of the best players of his generation [...] he had the experience and knowledge to know what the next level was going to look like. So he could kind of bring that into our gym,” Cundy explained.
And it’s wasn’t just Cundy who was able to make the leap from wearing the Green and Gold to the Red and White. In total, seven of the 21 players on the men’s national senior team roster played under Danyluk at one point in their volleyball careers.
It’s a shared background that has bred a familiarity on the court and that may allow this incarnation of the team to make the Olympic games for the first time in 14 years.
“It’s really cool. It’s really familiar,” Cundy said. “It’s nice to come to the gym having some history with some of the guys. All the U of A guys play really well together. We get along together and we communicate, it seems like, on a different level. It’s nice to be playing with a bunch of Bears. We are totally in tune with each other because of it. It’s a sport of reaction, with a small court and a really fast ball. Knowing each other so well gives us an advantage in that aspect.”
After finishing third in the Pan-Am Cup last month, Cundy and his Team Canada teammates will continue their drive for a London Olympic qualifying bid when they take on Slovakia later this summer.