College Kids: Leah + Kiera

There is absolutely no limit to what you can achieve. Whatever you have yet to accomplish, believe that you can do it. Let others underestimate you. Let others overlook your capabilities. That is when you attack with all you have. You may surprise yourself just as much as them.
— JourneyStrength
  My second year as a Thunderbird in the 2008/2009 season. Our second National Championship win before the 6-title winning streak. 

My second year as a Thunderbird in the 2008/2009 season. Our second National Championship win before the 6-title winning streak. 

Greetings friends! 

So one of my 2018 goals was to continue writing a lot and sharing more. As I sit here in my little dormitory / residence / hotel in Jakarta I figure it’s time to get going. I am doing a little revamp of my website (coming soon!) and I was originally planning to post more after that got up but oh well. No time like the present amIriiiiight?

With that being said, I wanted to start off 2018 blog-posts on the right foot so thought why not dedicate it to some of my teammates I had the pleasure of working along side last summer. I really wanted to take a moment (or a blog post) to write about some of these girls that you might not have seen on the court or the roster last summer, but still have a large effect and a large part on our Women’s National Team Program. They are the up-and-comers; the College Kids. Because I took the summer of 2016 off for personal reasons (something along the lines of necessary rest and recovery) I hadn’t met some of these athletes before. Coming back for tryouts last summer was really exciting to see all of the talent that had come out but also quite nerve-racking for an old-sometimes/usually-injured-veteran such as myself. I remember Tammy Mahon telling me last quadrennial that she felt me “biting at her heels year after year” as I fought to over-take a starting spot. I remember thinking how ridiculous is that? How can a veteran (and captain) player be so nervous about a young buck? Yah… I understand now. These girls have extreme talent and a seemingly total-replenishing sense of energy. Like… aren’t you tired?? These girls are the future of Volleyball Canada. You can currently find them all over the country turning heads at their respective universities. If you have the ability to go out and watch a university or college game, I strongly suggest you do. Because before you know it they’ll be big-time ballers on the international stage. So go snag an autograph while it’s still free. Keep your eyes peeled for these stunners at a university near you. And let me introduce you to my College Kids. 

First up this week I want to introduce you to two powerhouse kids: Keira and Leah. In light of CIS National Championships having just concluded a few weekends ago, I figured there’s no better time than to give you a bit of an insider look into their brains to learn a bit more about them. Leah plays for U of C and Kiera for UBC (go birds!!!) They battled it out in the semi finals of the National Championships the other weekend so both girls are respectively on teams ranked the top four in the country. Pretty impressive if you ask me. A Canada-West battle and rivalry during university season but potential teammates in the summer. Wouldn’t want to be on the other side of the net when these two eventually join forces! So now… my girls: 


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Leah Shev 

Position: Setter

Age: 22

Highschool: William Aberhart

University: University of Calgary

Year: 4

Major: Communications and Culture (Minor in Sociology and Eastern Religions)

Hometown: Calgary

Nicknames: Shevy, Chevrolet, Shev Shev, DJ Shevdaddy 

Awards:

  • 2013 Canada West Rookie of the Year 
  • 2013 CIS All-Rookie Team 
  • 2013 University of Regina Female Rookie of the Year

5 fun facts

  • In my down time you can find me at a good yoga class.
  • 5 things I cannot travel without: a roller, my favorite essential oils, fruity gum, my ipod, and tea. 
  • My hobbies include: hiking, snowboarding, and yoga. 
  • My favourite food(s) are perogies and borscht (yes, I’m Ukrainian).
  • I speak French (or attempt to) as I was in French immersion throughout Jr. High and High School.

Tell me a little bit about your college and why you chose to go here post-secondary:

I eventually moved to the University of Calgary after playing my first 2 years at the University of Regina. I transferred because I got to reunite with a bunch of old teammates and coach in my hometown. I love the extremely competitive environment at the U of C and the group of girls are so dedicated and inspiring.

What are your Individual goals for the season?

  1. Be an accountable leader on and off the court. 
  2. Take care of my body and be proactive with injuries and nutrition. 
  3. Maintain the confidence to play and improve my skills at the level I know I am capable of all season. 

What year did you have the most success? What do you think that’s attributed to?

Looking at success by ranking, my first year would appear to be my most successful year as we placed 6th at Nationals. However, even though this current season is only halfway done, I look at this season to be my most successful year. We are a very talented and mature group with so much will-power to be successful. We have a supportive coaching, strength, nutrition and athletic therapy staff that are 110% invested in making this group as successful and healthy as possible.  We have very specific goals that we made together as a team on the steps to Nationals and I fully believe that we will finish this season as a Championship team. 

Game day routine?

Take a nap in the afternoon followed with a nice long stretch when I wake up.  Then blast pump up music with the team once we get to the gym. 

What do you do when you’re not playing your best: 

First I take a deep breath to stay calm and composed. I then reach out to my teammates for support and focus on the great things everyone else is doing around me so I can provide extra positive reinforcement. Feeling that sense of support from my teammates always motivates me to perform at my best. 

What you would tell your high-school self:

To embrace the journey and accept failures as a stepping-stone for my long-term goals.

The biggest lesson you’ve learned in university thus far:

Being able to time manage and balance my priorities and my passions. I think it’s extremely important to keep balance in my life with friends, family, school, leisure and volleyball in order to keep my sanity and be happy. In order to make this possible I have had to time-manage my schedule and weigh my priorities in order to give myself the opportunity to be successful in all aspects of my life. 

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A player you most look up to and why: 

My cousin Christy Hansen (Torgerson).  She played at U of A and competed with the National Team for three seasons. She is one of the most passionate, supportive and talented people in my life. I have always been her biggest fan. She introduced me to the beauty and thrill of volleyball. I have spent many summers up in Edmonton training and spending time with her. I truly believe that her endless support and amazing technical coaching has brought my game to the next level.  

What are your personal goals for 2018?

  1. Make the Canadian National Team this summer.
  2. Do well in all of my university classes.
  3. Win USport Nationals with the Dinos. 

What was your first experience with Team Canada?

This past summer was my first experience with Team Canada and it was very eye-opening. I was cut after the tryouts last May and settled back in Calgary ready to spend my summer working and doing some off-season training for the Dinos. As upsetting as it was being told I was the last cut from the tryout, I reflected back on my week there as an extremely positive experience; I could see myself working very hard and take all the feedback from the coach to train harder and come back the following year. Then there was a sudden turn of events as I received a call 2 weeks after the tryout with the opportunity to go back to Richmond and train with the team. So without question I got myself to Richmond within a week and began training with the team. Being around such amazingly talented and driven women was such a privilege. It was definitely a steep learning curve but I tried to embrace every opportunity to make myself a better player and teammate.  

If you could describe yourself as an athlete/player in 5 words what would they be?

  • Passionate
  • Hard working 
  • Humble  
  • Gritty 
  • Talented 

Aspirations to play professionally? What does your 5-10year plan look like?

It has always been my goal to play professionally ever since I was 10 years old and heard stories from Christy about her experience playing pro in the Canary Islands. The thought of playing the sport I love while having the opportunity to travel the world sounded like a dream come true. I hope to play at least a few seasons overseas then go back to school to become a Recreational Therapist. 

Kyla's Recap: 

As mentioned and explain above, Shev was called back to the team a few weeks after tryouts last summer. Another setter in our group that I felt had a head-turning tryout, I was personally interested in seeing more of what she could do! Upon meeting her you instantly know she's one of those go-getter players that will keep her head down and grind without complaint. She showed up after strange circumstances and yet was still so thankful to be part of the training group and worked her butt off every day on court and in the weight room. She clearly had an outstanding year with the Dinos and what's even more impressive is that she has one more year to go! Very excited to see Shev go at it again at Team Canada tryouts at the beginning of May! 


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Kiera Vanryk

Position: Leftside

Highschool: Surrey Christian School

Age: 19

University/college: UBC

Year: 1

Major: Kinesiology

Hometown: Surrey, B.C.

Awards: 

  • 2018 USport Rookie of the Year
  • Canada West First Team All-Star and USport Second Team All-Canadian
  • 2018 Volleyball BC Excellence Award
  • The Province’s B.C. High School Volleyball Girls Player of the Year, and Head of the Class       
  • 4 MVP's for BC club provincials

8 fun facts:

  1. I looooooove dogs. And chocolate. 
  2. I have 2 sisters Amy (24) and Jocelyn (22).
  3. I have played volleyball for 11 years and my dad was my coach for 4 of those.
  4. I played soccer and the piano for 11 years (unfortunately not simultaneously). 
  5. If I was stranded on an island and could only bring one thing it would have to be either chocolate or watermelon. 
  6. I went on a missions trip with AIA to Haiti when I was 16 years old.
  7. Go to Starbucks order is a Java Chip Frappuccino. 
  8. I have lived in the same house for my whole life. (Heyyyy me too!!).

After being named Head of the Class, how did you eventually decide on UBC?:

I chose to come to UBC because it has an amazing Kinesiology program and the team has a great culture that I really wanted to be apart of.

Individual goals for the season?

My goal for my team is to win nationals and my personal goal this season is to work on my 'in-game' decision making.

What year did you have the most success? What do you think that’s attributed to?
When I was 16 I played for U18 Team BC where we won NTCC’s and Western Canada Summer Games and I was named to the Junior National Team. I would consider this my most successful year because in two months I grew as a player more than I ever had before, taking my game to the next level. I was able to improve so much because I had great coaches supporting me in all aspects of my game and had teammates who were a lot better than me. By having better players ahead of me it created a competitive atmosphere which ultimately helped me work to become a better and stronger player myself.

What do you do when you’re not playing your best:

My mindset is that I will do anything to try and make my game better which often results in me trying harder. However, I have learned that I need to start to “play easy”; trusting my training, my coaches and ultimately my teammates. 

Another thing I do when I can feel myself begin to spiral is using my reset button. I have an external cue that helps me let go of my previous mistakes and look forward to the next action and point.

What would you tell your high school self:

I would like to tell my high highschool self to not be so serious all the time! You can still work hard but also relax and have fun - enjoy your time in high school!

The biggest lesson you’ve learned in university thus far:

Moving from high school to university I have learned how important it is to manage my time wisely. The ability to juggle classes, practices everyday plus a workout, possibly travelling on weekends and missing class (and sleep) while eating healthy, can be a great struggle. Finding my rhythm and routine in order to use my time wisely is very important for me.

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What are your personal goals for 2018:

 My biggest goal is to be apart of the Women’s National Team Program.

What was your first experience with Team Canada?

 My first experience with Team Canada was when I was 16 and I made the U18 Junior National Team.

Favourite coach and why?

I have two: Doug Remier and Dan Huzar.

Doug is an amazing coach who has such a vast knowledge of the game. He continues to help me grow as a player by picking out details of my game no one ever has before. Dan has coached me for three or four years now and he will never shy away from telling the truth which I really respect. Whether or not I do something right or wrong, Dan will tell me how to make each action I make better, which has helped me grow tremendously as an athlete. 

If you could describe yourself as an athlete/player in 5 words, what would they be?

  • Competitive
  • Hard working
  • Determined
  • Focused
  • Committed    
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Aspirations to play professionally? What does your 5-10year plan look like?

Playing professionally has been a goal for me for a couple years now, however, I’m not certain yet when or how long from now I plan to start.

I guess we'll all just have to stay tuned! 

Kyla’s recap:

If you’ve heard of volleyball in the Lower Mainland chances are that you’ve heard of Kiera Van Ryke. First of all, what a swag name. Second of all, I’ve been hearing about Kiera for a very long time now. In fact, a few years ago I had a handful of UBC-coaches drop into my email saying "Kiera. We need her. Message her." (I'm wondering now if I should get paid for my recruitment-skills?). I haven’t YET had the privilege to train along side Kiera but I saw her hit a few balls in tryouts last May and well, let’s just say I’m glad she’ll be on my side of the court. You can find her at UBC absolutely dominating the CIS/USPORT even though she’s only in her first year. When I was coming through university Doug didn’t believe in starting first years – but I guess he has no choice with this one! There's no doubt in anyone's mind that Kiera has a bright future ahead of her and I for one am excited to get to know her on and off the court, whenever that may be! 


Thanks for stopping through and giving this blog post a read! I have a lot of other athletes to post about to stay tuned - another College Kids post will be dropping at some point next week! 

Oh, and if you want to continue reading for the heck of it, continue your scroll and you'll find my most recent post about my season here in Indonesia! And what a different ride it's been! We have one month to go here before we get a chance to snag the championship, something my club hasn't done! I am really hoping that we'll be the first team to bring the gold back to our club!  

And in the meantime, stay happy and healthy my friends. Thanks for all your continued support.