For a trio of Abbotsford volleyball players, the BC Summer Games is a chance to show just how quickly team chemistry can develop.
Fresh off months of competitive club play and high school battles, MEI student Jenna Koedam, ACS student Lizaan Steenkamp and Abbotsford’s Destry Unrau are quickly becoming key pieces on the Fraser Valley girls volleyball team.
Koedam comes from the Eagles volleyball dynasty at MEI, and said she’s enjoyed the preparation during the lead-in to the Games later this month.
“I’ve played for my school team for three years and I just like everything about volleyball,” she said. “Everyone on this team knows each other from other clubs so it’s been easy to get along. We’ve all played against each other before so it’s nice to be on the same team.
Duncan Harrison, the girls team head coach for the Games, said Koedam brings a lot to the team.
“She comes from a volleyball culture at MEI and she’s just been a fun kid to work with,” he said. “She’s playing the middle for us even though it’s not her natural position and she’s really embraced playing that for us. She’s willing to help the team out anyway she can.”
Steenkamp elected to play only with her club team this year, and said she was thrilled to get the call to join the zone team.
“I screamed,” she said. “I feel like the whole team works really well together. When I joined I thought the [Surrey] Force girls would just stick together but everyone has worked well together and we’re all happy with how the team is coming together.
Harrison, who also coaches the Columbia Bible College women’s volleyball team, said Steenkamp has a lot of potential in the sport.
“She’s really athletic,” he said. “She’s an outside hitter for us and I think she’s going to be a nice addition on the outside, she’s quiet but is a really hard worker in practice.”
Unrau, who is home schooled, comes from a volleyball family. She played on the Force team during the year, and has been around the sport as long as she can remember.
“I’ve been playing since I was about seven,” she said. “My dad played at Trinity Western and my mom played also, so as soon as I was old enough I joined a club team.”
She said team chemistry is so important in volleyball, and that she likes the way the Fraser Valley team is developing.
“We’ve really got to know everyone really quickly and I think we’re working well together,” she said. “Even when he switches up the setters, we just seem to gel easily.”
Harrison said Unrau is an alternate on the team, but that every player needs to be able to step up during the Games. All 12 players on the bench must start at least one set, and substitutions cannot be made until one team reaches 15 points. He said Unrau has been a great piece of the team.
“She’s an energy kid and works her butt off in practice,” he said. “She never gives up on a ball and has been great support for her teammates.”
Harrison said the trio have helped the team mesh quickly, which is needed for a quick turnaround like the Games.
“It’s a tight window and you have six weeks to get your act together,” he said. “We’ve been working together for about a month now and practice Monday and Wednesday.”
Wednesdays have seen the team practice against post-secondary students and older players, experience that the girls think will help them in the Games.
“I feel like if we play against players like that more we will be so much more prepared for the Summer Games,” Steenkamp said.
It’s the first time Harrison has been involved in the BC Summer Games as a coach, and he said it’s special for both himself and the players.
“I think they’re excited,” he said. “For a lot of them this is the first time they’ve ever been a part of an elite or all-star type of team, it’s their first dip into the deep end of the pool.”
It may be his first time as a coach at the Games, but Harrison said he watched his son compete in volleyball four years ago in Surrey.
“I know his experience was phenomenal,” he said. “The whole environment is a great experience. It’s also going to be exciting for these three girls because it’s in their backyard.”
Harrison said he expects his team to battle for a medal at the event. He noted that the Fraser River/Delta team will be strong, as well as the Okanagan and Vancouver Island teams.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun for all of us and the kids are working really hard to make sure we’re there at the end,” he said.
The girls volleyball competition at the BC Summer Games runs from July 22 to 24 at the University of the Fraser Valley.
For more on the Games, visit bcgames.org.