If UNBC ever expands its varsity athletics spectrum to include sports other than basketball and soccer, volleyball would have to rate near the top of the list.
In the absence of a university volleyball program, there's a steady stream of post-secondary talent forced leave the city to play elsewhere and that will continue until the need is addressed.
Pat Hennelly, head coach of the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack men's team, is in no hurry to see UNBC arrive on the CIS volleyball scene, just because he doesn't want those graduating Prince George high school stars to stop coming to him in Kamloops.
"Selfishly, as the coach of TRU, if UNBC gets a volleyball team, I'll have lost a spot to recruit from, but I'll still recruit here," said Hennelly. "My boss [TRU director of athletics and recreation Ken Olynyk], has a recruiting strategy that says, 'Own the corridor,' and I have to look at the corridor for anything north of Kamloops as ours."
Since TRU started its volleyball program in 2005, seven Prince George players have been recruited there, including five members of the current men's team -- Colin Carson (a Duchess Park graduate and former junior national team member), two-time Academic All-Canadian Spencer Reed (PGSS), Nic Balazs (D.P. Todd), Jared Mitchell (Duchess Park),and new recruit Jordan Foot (D.P. Todd). All are in Prince George this week to conduct the WolfPack Volleyball Camp.
Hennelly''s ties to Prince George players started several years ago when he convinced Prince George players Tim Flannigan (Kelly Road) and Graham Allard (Kelly Road) to join the Wolf Pack and they helped them win CIS bronze in 2008.
"Jordan Foot was at the very first camp we ran in Prince George and he was the worst player in camp," said Hennelly. "His sister Elise played volleyball and she dragged him to camp and he probably didn't want to be there. Boom, this summer he was an all-star at the National Team Challenge Cup tournament, identified as one of the top-six players for his age in the country. I hope these other Prince George players like Colin Carson inspire kids to think they can be the best in the country."
Hennelly says Prince George produces at least one male college-level athlete every two years. He attributes that to quality coaching at the local high school level produces above-average student athletes who also benefit from being part of the 450-player Prince George Youth Volleyball Club, one of the largest in Canada. Compared to other minor sports organizations like soccer or hockey, the city's volleyball club has a superior record in placing athletes on college teams.
"Soccer has a huge membership but yet volleyball, with our 450 members we're continually putting out athletes on scholarship," said PGYVC president Dan Drezet. "Two years ago we had 11 athletes go on scholarship in one year. This year we had three, but we're consistently around five kids a year."
The success of Prince George volleyball also extends to the provincial team level. Six-foot-two middle blocker Kristen Anton of Cedars Christian played this summer of the under-18 girls team, Foot suited up at middle blocker for the 18U boys team, while middle blocker Thomas Anton of Cedars and setter Hallie Drezet of Duchess Park were part of the 16-and-under B.C. teams.
The WolfPack men will be coming to Prince George on Friday, Sept. 27 to play a preseason match against the UBC-Okanagan Heat at the Northern Sport Centre as a feature attraction of the Kodiak junior tournament.