This year, for the first time ever, high school athletes in Whistler got the chance to extend their volleyball season with the inception of a new club team.
The idea was raised by 16-year-old Whistler Secondary student Sage Eberhard who, after the high school season ended in November, went to her mom Carol questioning why they couldn’t have a club team in Whistler instead of being forced to drive to Vancouver to try out for the teams there.
“We didn’t really have the time or the energy to [start a team from scratch],” said Carol Eberhard. “But I did reach out to a bunch of the clubs in North Vancouver and the North Shore Stars actually said that they would be willing to take on a club team under their club.”
So with an organizing body in place, the next step for the team was to lock down some practice times. But with gym time in Whistler being “ridiculously hard to come by,” according to Carol, an arrangement was made with the municipality to also start a house league program for anyone else who wanted to play volleyball, which would practice and play on half the gym while the club team practiced on the other half.
In their first season, which runs from January through May, Sage and her teammate Felicity Cox said with all the added practice and game time, the team has already grown by leaps and bounds from what it was during the school season.
“We’ve kind of improved over the majority of basically everything, I think,” said Cox. “We didn’t really block before we started club volleyball and we couldn’t really hit that hard. Also a lot of us have learned how to overhand serve, which is a huge difference, especially playing against club teams because they all have extremely hard serves.
“I think we can still improve on hitting and other things, but it’s definitely not easy playing against these teams … learning how to block was really helpful because we win a lot of our points from that.”
To cap off its inaugural season, the club team plans on attending both the provincial tournament in mid-April as well as nationals in Edmonton from May 18 to 21.
However, going into these tournaments, the girls know they will be facing much tougher competition than they’ve ever played before, with many of the teams being made up of girls who have played club volleyball for years already. And the girls know walking out with a tournament win probably isn’t in the cards for them this year.
Instead, they are just excited about having that experience and to be able to take what they’ve learned this year into their school team next year.
“I wouldn’t say [our goal] is necessarily to go win, because we know we don’t have the experience,” said Sage. “These teams all have a bunch of people trying out for each club team, so they pick the best out of the people who try out. But I would also say that our team is a scrappier team. We are really good at digging balls and just getting to them, [and] we are a really good defensive team, so we do pretty well considering we only have a certain group of people to choose from.”
With provincials in just a couple of weeks and nationals just over a month away, the team is working hard at fundraising to cover the costs of flights and hotel rooms that will run them approximately $1,000 per person.
On top of doing a bottle drive and raffling off items donated by local businesses, the team has also started a GoFundMe page to aid in its fundraising efforts, which can be found at gofundme.com/f/pamc3e-help-send-us-to-nationals.