Spencer Reed was a Polar, Colin Carson a Condor. During their high school volleyball careers at PGSS and Duchess Park respectively, they were rivals through and through.
Then, they were teammates, both wearing the colours of the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack.
Reed and Carson are now entering their fifth and final seasons as members of the Kamloops-based WolfPack. Looking back, the 22-year-old Reed is happy things turned out the way they did.
"I'm glad he came to TRU," Reed said of Carson. "We're great buddies -- lived together for a couple of years -- and I'm glad that we have the chance to finish off our careers together. If there was one guy I would have picked from our [Prince George Youth Volleyball Club] team to come and play with me it would have been Colin Carson."
Reed graduated from high school one year ahead of schedule and joined the WolfPack in the fall of 2008. He was a red-shirt player that first season, meaning he practised with the team but didn't play. Carson made his way to Kamloops in the fall of 2009 and, from that point forward, both were on TRU's active roster, Reed as a libero and Carson as a setter.
Like Reed, Carson remembers the high school days when they were on opposite sides of the net, battling against each other and doing whatever they could to win tournament championships for their teams.
"My Grade 11 year, [the Polars] had quite a strong team," said Carson, 22. "We gave them a run but I don't know if we ever actually beat them. I had played club [volleyball] with [Reed] so I definitely knew him. We had also played Team B.C. together."
They'll be back in Prince George on Sept. 27. That night (7 p.m., Northern Sport Centre), they'll be on the court for an exhibition match against the UBC Okanagan Heat of Kelowna. Both clubs compete in the Canada West Universities Athletic Association and are preparing for the start of their regular seasons.
Reed and Carson are two of three graduating players in uniform for TRU this season. At the other end of the age scale are two more Prince George players, third-year middle blocker Nic Balazs and rookie middle blocker/outside hitter Jordan Foot, and both are projected to be major contributors as they gain more experience at the Canada West level. Leading up to the season, Balazs has been slowed by some leg issues. Foot, however, has been a force during practice sessions.
"Jordan is making an impact right away," Reed said. "He's a big, strong, physical guy for only being a first-year. He's got a really, really bright future. He jumps well and hits the ball hard."
The WolfPack also features Prince George product Jared Mitchell, a Duchess Park graduate who will probably see spot duty at libero this season.
As a team, TRU has missed the playoffs the past two seasons but Reed and Carson are confident that streak will end this year.
"We've got something good going on on the court and we've got a great dynamic in the room," Reed said. "We have a couple great recruits and we returned a fair chunk of people [from last season] so we have all the ingredients for a successful season."
Added Carson: "[Qualifying for] playoffs is obviously the first thing we need to accomplish but once we get there I think we should make a deep run, heading towards nationals and even at the [national] championship, I think."
A top-seven finish in the 12-team Canada West conference would earn the WolfPack a spot in the playoffs. The Canada West champion, runner-up and the host Calgary Dinos will advance to the Canadian Interuniversity Sport national tournament, Feb. 27 to March 1.
Reed and Carson will graduate from TRU next spring, Reed with a bachelor of education degree and Carson with a bachelor of business administration degree. Reed, currently doing a practicum at a Kamloops elementary school, is considering a career as a teacher while Carson is uncertain what his working future holds. After he's done at TRU, he may continue with volleyball to see where it takes him.
"The senior national B team, they tend to take a lot of players right out of university," said Carson, who suited up for Canada's junior national club in the summer of 2010. "I haven't really thought too much about it but if I did try out I think I would have a shot of making it. Or I could potentially go over to Europe and play for a couple years over there too."
In the more immediate future, Reed and Carson are excited about their return home for the exhibition tilt against UBCO.
"It will be the culmination of a five-year career, the chance to showcase our team in front of a big P.G. crowd," Reed said.
Carson added that the match will be an opportunity for local sports enthusiasts to see something out of the ordinary.
"All of us Prince George guys are really looking forward to that and I also think it's great for the city of Prince George because they don't really get a chance to see the high level of volleyball that we will be playing," he said.
Tickets will be available at the door. They can also be reserved through the Prince George Youth Volleyball Club website (pgyvc.com) or by sending an e-mail to pg...@shaw.ca.