Size is the theme for this year's incoming class
If anyone wondered if the Junior Heat volleyball club fulfilled its mandate, Heat head coach Steve Manuel could answer that in a heartbeat.
This fall, three of the five new recruits Manuel has signed cut their proverbial teeth with the Junior Heat squad. A pair of middles, Taysha Boulter and Madelyn Hettinga, along with defensive specialist, Tessa Ivans, have spent numerous seasons honing their skills in the UBCO gym with the development club.
Two other middles, Natalie Funk from Strathmore, Alberta and Aja Sy from Victoria B.C., round out the 2020 incoming class.
Manuel says the Junior Heat program continues to deliver university-grade talent for his UBC Okanagan varsity program. While Manuel admits, And going into his 20th season at the helm of the Heat women's volleyball team will be different than any other this year, he is making plans for a strong and defensive women's volleyball team.
"We are very excited to welcome this talented group of student athletes, they will fit in nicely with our current squad," he says. "The athleticism and versatility of these athletes will fill some of the gaps in our lineup and provide some much-needed depth in other positions. This incoming class has also performed well in the classroom and will bolster an already strong academic Heat squad."
With more than 330 wins to his name, Manuel, along with his coaching staff, says he couldn't be more proud of the group of players brought in to reload for the 2020-21 season.
One of the most prized recruits in the 2020 class, is local product Madelyn Hettinga. The 6'1" outside hitter was ranked the consensus No. 2 player by Varsity Letters in December. Hettinga is a two-time AAAA Champion with the Kelowna Secondary Owls, along with being a B.C. high school heptathlon champion in track and field. She was a first-team all-star in 2018 during the first provincial championship with KSS, before being named tournament MVP this past fall with KSS. The high-flying outside hitter was also a finalist for both the Athlete of the Year in not only Kelowna, but in British Columbia. Her list of accomplishments on the track are just as prestigious as those on the court, as she has won provincial medals in the 80m hurdles, the 200m hurdles, the 300m hurdles, along with the 4 x 100m relay and the 400m.
Hettinga was a member of the Kelowna Volleyball Club starting in 2016, before moving over to play for the Junior Heat program in 2018. She has hopes of one day becoming an elementary school teacher following her time in the Faculty of Health and Exercise Sciences.
Hettinga on her commitment:
"I chose UBCO because I am able to stay in Kelowna while competing at a high level. UBCO was able to accommodate all of the goals I have over the next five years. I also compete in track and field which was definitely a factor in deciding where I wanted to go for university. UBCO offered the academic portion as I would like to go into human kinetics."
Heat coach Steve Manuel on Madelyn Hettinga:
"We couldn't be happier that Madelyn chose to continue her volleyball career at UBC Okanagan. She is extremely versatile and athletic, with the ability to play middle as well as on the outside. Equally as impressive is Madelyn's work ethic and her commitment to her craft. She is an extremely hard worker and will add to our already established culture of commitment to excellence. Madelyn has already made her mark as a member of the Jr. Heat program, so we know firsthand what her abilities are. We expect great things from Madelyn and believe she can make an immediate impact when she steps onto the court this upcoming season."
The sole BC product joining the Heat that is not a part of the Junior Heat club program is 6'0" middle blocker Aja Sy. From Victoria, Sy comes in with two years' experience with Team BC, including a Canada Cup bronze medal in 2019 with the provincial squad. Aja competed for the Victoria Volleyball Association and the Iron Maidens during the past few club seasons. The product of Victoria High will enter the Human Kinetics program in the fall, and was a four-time All-Academic Honours with Distinction at her high school.
Sy on her commitment:
"I chose UBC Okanagan because I love the campus and community. After my second visit over the summer it was really apparent that the campus size promoted a neighbourhood feeling. That alone made me want to come to UBCO because I know it won't be hard to connect with people and find opportunities. I love playing volleyball but my education is also really important to me. By coming to UBCO I get to have the best of both worlds. On top of that the staff I had the chance to meet were genuine and welcoming. These are the kind of people I want to be surrounded by throughout my athletic and academic experience."
Heat coach Steve Manuel on Aja Sy:
"We had been keeping an eye on Aja for quite some time while she played a major role on successful club teams in Victoria as well as with Team BC. We knew right away while Aja was on her visit that she was someone that we wanted in our program. She is a solid middle attacker that moves the ball around well, she has a big court presence to go along with her positive attitude and work ethic."
The lineage of Funks joining the volleyball programs will keep on coming as Natalie Funk has signed on for Steve Manuel's squad for next fall. The 6'3" middle is the sister of Caleb Funk, a third-year middle on the Heat men's program. Relatively new to volleyball, Funk grew up on the ice. As a kid and throughout high school, hockey was her passion. As a member of the Rocky Mountain Raiders AAA hockey squad since 2017, she would help her team capture a provincial silver medal back in 2018. Her focus now on volleyball, after committing to the Heat to play in Canada West, Funk dropped hockey for a year of high-level club training. This past year she joined the Junior Dinos Volleyball program and they were ranked third the province before their season was cut short due to COVID-19.
Funk is a three-time honour roll student at Strathmore High and will enter the sciences program when she arrives in the fall at UBCO, with hopes of one day becoming an astrophysicist.
Funk on her commitment:
"I am really excited to compete for the Heat because all of the girls on the team seem like such a great group and I am excited to improve my game alongside them as well as with the support of the awesome coaching staff."
"I was interested in being able to take general sciences so I can see which field I am most interested in. It is also a smaller, really nice campus which is awesome but I'm still able to get a high-calibre UBC degree. All of the girls seemed super nice and welcoming on my visit and they seem like a great group of girls with a great coaching staff. Another reason I decided on coming to UBC Okanagan is that my brother is a member of the men's volleyball team and I am really excited to be going to the same university as him and playing the sport."
Heat coach Steve Manuel on Natalie Funk:
"Natalie will bring some physicality and add some depth to our middle position. We have been impressed with her ability and now that she is able to focus solely on volleyball, we expect to see a steep development curve from her. Coming from a hockey background, she is a hard worker and a strong competitor that hits a heavy ball and puts up a big block."
From the stands to court, local product Tessa Ivans has had her eyes on the Heat women's volleyball program since she first picked up a volleyball. The libero/defensive specialist grew up idolizing the Heat women's volleyball team, and cited that this was her dream opportunity.
Ivans, who stands at 5'9", will look to make an impact early next season with the graduation of two-year starter Claudia Corneil at the libero position. In the classroom, the product of George Elliot Secondary will enter the sciences program with an intent to major in biochemistry. She has her eyes set on potentially working in a medical profession or becoming a teacher following her time at UBC Okanagan.
During her time with the Coyotes, Ivans earned several all-star and MVP awards, along with being a provincial all-star in 2019 with her high school squad that finished third that season. She also has spent the last two club seasons with some familiar faces, as she has been a member of the Junior Heat under coaches Becki Kosinski and Darren Moreira.
Volleyball has taken the libero all over the world as well, as her and her beach partner finished in fifth place in 2017 at the International Childrens' Games in Lithuania. She also would finish in fifth place at last year's Seattle AVP beach tournament. Post-secondary athletics is no first for the Ivans family either, as her mother played basketball at MacEwan University.
Ivans on her commitment:
"Since I started playing volleyball, at 11 years old, it has always been a dream of mine to compete for the UBCO Heat. I went to all of the Heat camps and attended home games. Players such as Brianna Beamish, were role models that have inspired and helped me to grow as a player. I am more than excited and prepared to compete at the next level with these players that motivate me to play my best."
Heat coach Steve Manuel on Tessa Ivans:
"Tessa is another great example of our local development model. Having participated for many years in our camps, clinics, VC REP and with the Jr. Heat, we knew that Tessa would be a great addition. She has a very nice touch on the ball and is a great passer. Her volleyball knowledge and reading ability will serve her well on the defensive side of the game, and we look forward to continuing to work with her at the next level."
Taysha (Tay) Boulter
Captain of the Kelowna Christian School Knights in her grade 12 season, Tay Boulter, led her team to the gold medal at the B.C. School Sports senior A girls' volleyball championship tournament. The six-foot middle from Peachland was a first team All-Star on the banner winning squad this past November. Not just a volleyball player, Boulter, competed in basketball, soccer, and track and field as well as volleyball in her time with the Knights.
These past two years Boulter has competed with the Junior Heat volleyball club and represented her province in 2017 as a member of the provincial team.
Boulter will enroll in the arts program at UBCO and the perennial high school principal's list student hopes to move on to law school, eventually becoming a lawyer, after the completion of her undergrad.
Boulter on her commitment:
"Since I started playing volleyball, I wanted to play post-secondary. I grew up watching the Heat games and always looked up to the players on the team. Over the years, doing development camps and through the Jr. Heat volleyball club, I have gotten to know both the players and coaches on the team and knowing the coaches before attending the school made the decision to attend the school easy.
I also chose to attend UBC Okanagan because it is close to home, which has always been important to me, and have always heard amazing things about the academics offered there. I think the UBCO women's volleyball team is amazing and I can't wait to play for this team."
Heat coach Steve Manuel on Taysha Boulter:
"Taysha is another high-flying athlete in this group of recruits. We have been impressed with her abilities during her training in our development programs, her explosive jump and fast arm will be strong qualities moving forward. Taysha has played a lot of middle but also has the ability to take some swings on the outside. With our large roster she will be able to compete day in and day out to take her game to the next level."