Volleyball brings in fresh faces

Promising recruits for men’s and women’s teams

Men’s volleyball players at a recent practice in Bartlett Gym. The team will have six new recruits this year.
Men’s volleyball players at a recent practice in Bartlett Gym. The team will have six new recruits this year.

The men’s volleyball team is looking to build on their string of two consecutive OUA championships as they prepare for next season.

Head coach Brenda Willis has brought in six new recruits she expects will have a major impact.

“It’s been a couple years since we had a large core of athletes come in. ... Now, knowing that our core is mostly fourth- and fifth-year, I felt it was really crucial in terms of transition that I was out beating the bushes a little bit more,” she said.

University athletes are usually only eligible to compete for their school’s sports teams for five years.

Willis added that the team’s recent run of success helped her draw top recruits.

The new recruits are all arriving from Ontario high schools. They include Toronto’s Michael Amoroso, Perth’s Will Bulmer, Oakville’s Bryan Fautley, Hamilton’s Daniel Rosenbaum, Mississauga’s Niko Rukavina, and Breslau’s Joren Zeeman.

“I think we’ve got just a fabulous group of incoming athletes,” Willis said.

“Some of these guys are even in a position to challenge starters for spots right away.”

The incoming recruits said they decided to come to Queen’s for a variety of reasons, including the academic opportunities and social environment as well as the success of the volleyball program.

Rosenbaum, a setter, cited the opportunity to train with Gaels’ All-Canadian setter Devon Miller as a key factor that drew him to come here.

“That was one of the main things that attracted me to Queen’s: the opportunity to play with [Devon], and learn from him.” Rukavina said he was impressed by the Gaels’ performance last season.

“I was really excited about their program, and the recruits that were coming.”

Amoroso said making the jump to university athletics is a challenge.

“The speed worries me a bit, but at the same time ... I know that [Coach Willis is] a very good coach, and can help people make that jump.”

Bulmer said he’s a bit worried about playing at the university level as well. “Playing with guys that are a lot older than me, I’m going to have some restrictions, but I think my competitive attitude and will to succeed will help me out and help me transition fairly quickly,” he said.

The new Gaels have a considerable amount of high-level experience already under their belts.

Amoroso, Rosenbaum, and Zeeman have all played for Team Ontario, while Bulmer and Fautley have also competed in national championships. Rukavina was named athlete of the year by his high school in Grade 11, and he was also named the volleyball team’s most valuable player three times.

“The Canadian national championships really gave me the opportunity to see what the university level would be at,” Fautley said.

This summer, Rosenbaum is representing Canada at the 19U World Beach Championships in Poland, while Amoroso, Bulmer, Fautley and Rukavina have all been invited to the prestigious Ontario Volleyball Association 18U High Performance Camp, a tryout camp for the province’s under-18 volleyball team.

The women’s volleyball team also recently announced four new recruits. Lorna Button, Elyssa Heller, Colleen Ogilvie, and Nicola Osborne will all suit up for the Gaels this fall.

“From what I’ve seen of them, they should bring excellent size, good jumping ability,” said head coach Chris Galbraith. “They’re well-rounded individuals; they’ll be able to play a variety of positions if called upon.”

Osborne, who will be coming to Queen’s to work on a Master’s degree, is a former captain of Oxford University’s women’s volleyball team. She has also played for the Great Britain women’s national team and has competed professionally with Austria’s SSK Feldkirch.

“Her resume looks very solid. She’s played professionally, she’s played internationally, so our expectation is that she’s going to be an immediate contributor,” Galbraith said.

The other new Gaels are also geographically diverse: Button is from Durham, Ontario, Heller hails from Chicago and Ogilvie is from Calgary.

Heller said she found Queen’s more welcoming than American schools she visited.

“I wanted to do something different, and Queen’s University stood out in my mind,” she said. “It was just a completely different atmosphere. It was more welcoming. ... I knew that if I went to school there, I’d get the most of what university has to offer.”

Like the men’s team, the women’s recruits are preparing to make the jump to university-level athletics. Ogilvie said she’s up for the challenge.

“It’s going to be a big step for me, but I think I’m ready for it.”

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