By: Randy Palmer
Over the last decade, the sport of volleyball has been gradually seeing more and more success come Moose Jaw’s way.High school teams are regularly contending for — and winning — provincial championships, the Thunder Creek Volleyball Club is getting busier and busier every year and the overall quality of the sport in the city continues to grow.
The latest step in that evolution could be found at the end of last month, when three Moose Jaw players were named to the 17-and-under Selects team by Sask Volleyball.
Peacocks’s Summer Okerstrom and Makenna Simmons along with Central’s Malea Kletzel all earned spots on the provincial team after a months-long try-out process that involved everything from video submissions to a pair of selection camps. It all culminated with an e-mail announcing their selection in late July.
“Especially being from Moose Jaw, there’s not very many of us who’ve made it before, but there’s three this year and that’s quite a lot,” said Kletzel during a brief break from the Thunder Creek Volleyball Club high school camp last week. “It’s really cool to meet new people who enjoy the sport like you do from around the province, then it’s a very high calibre to play with those people and there’s great coaching. It’s fun to be a part of.”
Simmons, who also took part in the TCVC camp, felt much the same way.
“It’s pretty crazy,” she said. “We all played together in club before and to see us make Team Sask from the same city is pretty cool.”
The selection is the second for Okerstrom and first for Simmons and Kletzel. And needless to say, it’s a welcome return to the game, especially after so much time away during the pandemic.
“It’s so important,” Okerstrom said. “That one year when nothing ran because of COVID, I think we all felt the difference. Just getting those reps is how you improve and it’s so crucial for us to come back and get used to playing again. It’s been really good that way and we’re looking forward to the rest of the season.”
Having a chance to play alongside some of the best high-school-aged players in Saskatchewan will only help develop the trio’s skills, especially in light of taking the court alongside the best of the best.
“They’re all amazing players and were chosen because they’re such amazing players, and it’s a cool experience just to be compared to people like that and such a high calibre in the province,” Simmons said.
In a normal season, the provincial teams would be preparing for national and western Canadian level tournaments. Of course, that’s all been cancelled due to COVID-19, but just having eyes on them as the season progresses will be important — and ideally help create more opportunities for local players in the future.
“I definitely think having a few of us will open up doors for other Moose Jaw girls to try out and really get into the sport,” Okerstrom said. “I think that’ll definitely help us all improve for the next couple years for sure.”
In the meantime, there’s the upcoming high school season to shine in. All three players will be key cogs to their crew’s success during the campaign, something Kletzel and her Team Sask compatriots are looking forward too.
“I’m hoping that in school league I can definitely stand out and help out the people on our team with the skills that I’ve learned and all that, standout at tournaments and have a really good season,” she said.
One thing that’s for certain in the eyes of TCVC coach Lorne Polupski is that this is just the beginning.
“I’m so proud of these girls,” he said. “This is the first time we’ve had three girls from Moose Jaw on Team Sask and it’s so hard to do. This is amazing and this is just the start for us. If we have players work as hard as these girls have, the skies the limit.”