The 17U/18U National Championships haven’t even started in Edmonton yet, and already one of the top teams in the 18U Girls age group is making waves.
If you’ve followed girls club volleyball at all in Canada over the past few years, Defensa is a name that you’ve become quite familiar with. In the past two years, the club not only has two National Championship medals, Gold in 2011 and Silver in 2012, but is also producing some of the top players in the country who are going to big Division 1 programs in the States, or fueling the top programs here in Canada.
This year’s Defensa team has been making some waves even before the National Championships in Edmonton May 10th-12th. The club that is located in Burlington, Ontario, will not have participated in any OVA events before heading to Alberta. Instead, they chose to play only one official event in Canada, opting to head to Quebec’s Open Provincial Championships in order to qualify for the Canadian Open.
Since Volleyball Canada’s only requirement is to have participated at a Provincial Championship, with no specification of needing to qualify through your home province, their decision is a justified one. It was made all the easier by the fact that Quebec run Open Provincials, which require no previous play in Quebec to compete.
According to head Coach Rob Fernley, it all came down to scheduling and placement. “Because there was no Defensa 17U team last year, [the team is made up with athletes left over from last year’s 18U team and those who graduated from the 16U team], we would have started the year in the Championship division” Said Fernley. “We also knew that we would be missing the first OVA tournament in December for the NCAA Final Four and the JVA World Challenge. Missing that first tournament would have placed us in the Trillium division, and our plans to miss another OVA would put us back in Trillium.”
With no knowledge of how many teams would make up the 18U Tier 1 Division at Provincials, coach Fernley made the decision to forgo all OVA events for this year, opting to travel south of the border for some tough competition.
If you were given the choice of watching the highest level of competition in North America, and playing a tournament against some the best teams in the States, in front of all the top Division 1 coaches, or going to a tournament in which you’ll be competing against the same teams and kids that you’ve been playing against for four years, which would you choose? (We’re pretty sure we know which one we would have picked).
“It’s all about the speed of the game. Americans just play the game at a higher speed,” says Fernley."Not only the pace of their game, but the pace of the overall play. With the quick subs and rules in place to move the game along quicker, a lot more ball can be played."
"We've always brought our teams down to the States, it's no secret that the level of competition is a lot higher. We want our girls to play against the best."
Not only do they play against the best, but also win against the best, medalling in every tournament but one this year, playing against the top players in the country ranked number one is women's volleyball.
With a roster that bolsters players such as Allyssah Fitterer, committed to Michigan State, and Junior National team member Autumn Bailey, committed to Marquette, this year's Defensa team is just like the rest, a serious threat to be the best team in the country.