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  • Writer's pictureJustin Prince

Local volleyball players selected for National Development Program teams

By Justin Prince

A pair of local volleyball players have spiked themselves onto Volleyball Canada’s Youth and Junior Women’s National Development Program rosters.

Windsorites Caylee Parker, 15, and Layne Van Buskirk, 17, were among more than 30 youth and junior girls’ volleyball players in Volleyball Canada’s recruitment programs in Whistler, B.C. last week. The two players participated in their respective National Team Challenge Cup tournaments for Team Ontario in Richmond, B.C. The best players from each of Canada’s 10 provinces were selected from the NTCC for the programs and more than 400 players tried out for Team Ontario at McMaster University earlier this year. Players selected had an hour to pack for Whistler after competing in the NTCC.

“It was a great experience,” said Caylee, who will be entering Grade 10 this September. “I learned a lot about how the older girls would play at the national level and got to learn a new skill set.”

Parker has won a variety of awards in recent years. The Riverside Secondary School student has competed in both the International Children’s Games and the Ontario Winter Games according to the Ontario Volleyball Association. Parker also helped the Riverside Rebels win the 2015 WECSSA and SWOSSA volleyball championships. As well, she helped her club team, the Genesis Volleyball Club, win the Ontario Volleyball Championships and Volleyball Canada Championships for their division earlier this year and plays for a second team, the Dynamo Corinthians Volleyball Club, against players from both the U.S. and Toronto. Parker was one of 22 players selected for her section of the program.

“Caylee’s been sort of on a flight path from the beginning. Amanda sort of started her in that direction at a very young age, but it was the correct direction,” said Genesis head coach Art Yanamoto, referring to Amanda Biundo, Parker’s coach at Forest Glade Grade School. “In her words, she said, ‘Art, Caylee is the real deal.’ And she has turned out to be the real deal on pretty much every front when it comes to volleyball.”

Layne Van Buskirk has also won a wide range of awards. During the 2014 Volleyball Canada East Open, she helped lead the South County Bandits to a championship victory while winning the tournament MVP. The Holy Names Catholic High School student also won a Windsor-Essex Sports Persons of the Year award as the Female Volleyball Player of the Year and co-won the 2015 Royal Arcanum award as one of the two best athletes in the area. Van Buskirk has played tennis and badminton while at Holy Names as well.

“I know now how I stack up against other players, so I can know what level I’m at so I can go further along,” said Van Buskirk during a phone interview July 30.

Parker and Van Buskirk did an assortment of assessments during their programs and participated in training sessions for system development and their movement. After their training, Van Buskirk competed with her team in the 2015 U.S. High Performance Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, where they finished fourth, while Parker played in an inter-squad tournament before returning home.

“By all accounts, it was a really tremendous success,” said Dawna Sales, the program director for the Volleyball Canada Centre of Excellence. “It’s really important for our next generation of girls and our next generation of Team Canada athletes for us to be able to work with the athletes for a week and really set them up for success with a lot of education, some training and some different coaches. It was really critical for their long-term success.”

Even though according to NCAA rules students are unable to receive scholarships until the first day of Grade 11, that hasn’t stopped schools from showing their interest in Parker at an early age. Sean Parker, Caylee’s father, said she has received letters from multiple NCAA Division I schools, ranging from her first letter from Michigan State University in Grade 8 to her most recent letter from the University of Notre Dame this past June.

Meanwhile, Van Buskirk is currently verbally committed to the University of Pittsburgh.

“I think it feels good just to know there are people out there who think I’m a good volleyball player other than my parents and my coach,” said Parker. “It’s really cool to experience it now. It makes it easier for me to make a decision of where I want to go come Grade 12.”

Both Parker and Van Buskirk may have a long way to go until they will have the chance to make the national team. The pathway for Canada starts with the development program at the high school and club level according to Sales. They then go on to play in the NCAA or CIS at their respective universities and colleges. Sales said in most cases, players don’t make the Canadian Senior Women’s A National team until after university, but the course is different for each person. Sales said the youth program is Volleyball Canada’s way “of making the pyramid wide at the bottom” to set the organization in a better position to see what talent is available.

“I’m hoping to get a lot better during university so after a couple years I can try out for Team Canada,” said Van Buskirk, who will be entering Grade 12 this fall. “Hopefully I’ll stack up the best.”

The Youth National Development Program will meet for more training again in early 2016. Van Buskirk said she plans to try out again next year for the junior program roster.

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