Drezet digs playing libero for Team B.C.

When Hallie Drezet sees a powerful serve or shot coming right for her, she doesn't hesitate at all.

Stationed in the back row of the volleyball court as a libero, she digs up the ball and passes it to one of her teammates to go on an offensive attack.

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Playing libero is a switch for the 16-year-old Drezet, who's always been a setter as she went through the ranks with the Prince George Youth Volleyball Club and with her junior and senior girls squads at Duchess Park secondary.

But she successfully made the back row transition in May when she tried out and made Team B.C.'s girls indoor volleyball squad in Burnaby that's set to compete at the Western Canada Summer Games in Wood Buffalo (Fort McMurray) on Aug. 12.

"It was kind of unexpected," said Drezet of making the team as the only libero. "I was a setter, but now a I'm a libero. The coaches thought it was a good idea - I'm only five-foot-seven and the other setters are six feet tall.

"I had never really served and received before, I was always up front setting and blocking. Now I'm passing and on defence. I love playing in the back row now and love getting the ball hit at me."

Team B.C. is ranked No. 1 going into the Games. The squad is in Vancouver for another training session prior to flying to Wood Buffalo on Aug. 11.

"We really only have to worry about Alberta and the rest of the games will be a learning experience," said Drezet. "There are 12 girls on the team and we're really close and trust each other on the court. It's a tight-knit team."

If Drezet needs any encouragement from the bench during the tournament, there will be a familiar face on the sidelines.

B.C.'s head coach is Spencer Reed, another Prince George Youth Volleyball Club alumni who played varsity volleyball for Thompson Rivers University's men's squad.

"I've known him since I was six years-old," said Drezet. "He's coached TRU's WolfPack camps. He's a great coach who was a libero and has lots of tips. He was a setter in high school so he understands the transition."

It's been quite the summer for Drezet.

As soon as school was done at the end of June, she spent two weeks from July 1-14 in Whistler training as part of the 18-and-under B.C. girls team. The squad, with Drezet at libero, then won gold at the National Team Challenge Cup in Richmond, beating Alberta in five sets in the semifinals and then defeating Ontario in three-straight sets in the final to claim the championship.

Drezet was among four of her teammates selected for the Canadian Youth National Team who spent another 10 days training in Whistler. There was no competition planned for the team. Instead it was an opportunity for athletes to train with each other.

"We had super-awesome coaches and meeting girls from Ontario and Quebec was pretty cool, getting to know them and being with the whole group," said Drezet, who is also bilingual. "It definitely helped with my confidence."

One may think it's a lot of volleyball, but Drezet said both coaching staffs with the provincial teams and the youth national team have been good with allowing time off in between training sessions and tournaments.

Once the Western Canada Games wrap up, Drezet will return home, have a week off and then help coach the elementary school-aged players as well as play at the annual TRU WolfPack volleyball camp at CNC from Aug. 31 to Sept. 3.

She's not sure what position she'll play this fall as a Grade 12 senior with the Duchess Park Condors.

When she graduates from high school next year, she'd love to play university volleyball (she's undecided about which school). After that, she wants to play professionally overseas and become a private detective.

Esopenko is one of seven athletes from Prince George competing at the Western Canada Summer Games.

Team B.C. is comprised of 427 people, including 334 athletes, 47 coaches, 24 managers and 22 mission staff.

Swimmers include David Dunn of the Pisces Swim Club and Hannah Esopenko of the Barracudas.

Judokas Kimiko Kamstra (Hart Judo Club) and Lisa Russell (Prince George Judo Club) will be joined on the sidelines by Team B.C. and Prince George coaches Bruce Kamstra (Hart Judo Club) and Aline Strasdin (PGJC).

Jenna Van Delft will suit up for B.C.'s basketball squad, while Alia Wilson of the Prince George Gymnastics Club will compete in artistic gymnastics.

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