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Island beach volleyball talent heads for universities, colleges

The Island has several sports that can be considered narrow in interest, compared with the more widespread ice hockey or baseball, but deep in passion among those who play or follow them.
Erin Mutch leaps to spike the ball while Island teammate Savannah Purdy looks on en route to the gold medal in girls' beach volleyball at the 2018 B.C. Summer Games this month in the Cowichan Valley.

The Island has several sports that can be considered narrow in interest, compared with the more widespread ice hockey or baseball, but deep in passion among those who play or follow them. Volleyball, rugby, field hockey, cricket and lacrosse are examples.

Narrow and deep is better for producing results, from the grassroots to national and international level, than widespread but shallow.

Island volleyball has long produced Olympians, bookending the likes of Claremont grad Greg Russell at Montreal in 1976 to the most current crop that included Martin Reader of Comox on the beach at London 2012 and Claremont grads Jamie Broder on the beach and Canadian captain Fred Winters indoors at Rio 2016.

Sarah Chase of Campbell River, out of Timberline Secondary and U.S. collegiate NCAA Div. 1 at St. Mary’s, is currently on the Canadian national indoor women’s team following the likes of Spectrum grad and UBC all-time great Shanice Marcelle, along with former men’s national team player Josh Howatson out of Oak Bay.

The next generation is now being heard from with a stellar girls’ class coming off a standout summer and about to graduate to the university and college levels.

The women’s beach volleyball team of Erin Mutch of Oak Bay Secondary and Savannah Purdy from Belmont Secondary won a treble of gold medals over the summer at the 2018 B.C. Summer Games in the Cowichan Valley, the U-18 B.C. championships and the U-18 elite division at the massive Seaside Tournament in Seaside, Oregon. The last of those is largest beach volleyball tournament in the world.

With the University of Victoria having discontinued its varsity volleyball program several years ago — which remains a glaring gap in the Vikes varsity sports program — top Island talent continues to spill off the Island. Camosun College, however, has filled in admirably with Chargers men’s and women’s teams that have been strong annual national collegiate contenders.

Mutch, however, is headed to play in Canada West and U Sports for Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops. Purdy will play Canada West for the Spartans at Trinity Western University in Langley.

Meanwhile, selected to represent B.C. this week at the national beach championships in Toronto are: Hannah May of Belmont and her Vancouver partner Arden Copping in U-18, and Gracie May of Belmont and her Vancouver partner Sara Ostojic in U-17. (Hannah May came down with the flu and is unable to compete.)

Gracie May and Ostojic, despite being U-17, captured the silver medal at the U-18 B.C. championships, losing in a close championship final to Purdy and Mutch.

At Seaside, Hannah May and Copping tied for third against a top-class international field in U-18. Gracie May and Ostojic they were fifth at Seaside in U-17.

Mutch, Purdy and the May sisters were selected as Team B.C. players and coached by Olympian and fellow Islander Broder.

Hannah May was recruited by Edmonton’s Grant MacEwan University of Canada West but will play this season for Camosun College. Joining her on the Chargers will be Belmont teammate Olivia Godek from the powerhouse Bulldogs team that has seen so much success in recent years at the B.C. high school basketball championships.

Other graduating Island volleyball high school players headed to university or college play this fall include: Sarah McKillican of Mark Isfeld Secondary in Courtenay to Mount Royal University of Canada West in Calgary, Alex Toporowski of Brentwood College to the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Julia Kretzshmar from Timberline in Campbell River, Isabella McKimmie from Vic High to Camosun College and Miranda Cyr of Belmont to Douglas College.

As always happens at the collegiate and university levels, old high school or club teammates suddenly find themselves on opposite sides of the net. Purdy and Mutch will now be spiking and blocking against each other in Canada West.

Belmont grads Hannah May and Godek will find themselves on the same side of the net at PISE Gym with former Island high school adversaries but now fellow Camosun Chargers freshmen players McKimmie and Kretzshmar.

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