Hutcheson & Siksna bringing experience back home from National Exellence Program

Erik Siksna and Zac Hutcheson share experiences from national training camp

Hutcheson (left) said most days include seven hours of training.
Hutcheson (left) said some days include seven hours of training.
Supplied by Zac Hutcheson
Two outside hitters from Queen’s men’s volleyball, Erik Siksna and Zac Hutcheson, have been training with the nation’s up-and-coming stars at Volleyball Canada’s National Excellence Program (NEP) in Gatineau, QC since the start of September. 
The NEP is structured to train a select group of athletes across Canada at an elite level, giving them the opportunity to advance in the sport professionally or potentially represent Canada in the Olympics. 
At 16, Hutcheson set aside his soccer cleats, opting to devote his time to volleyball, and hasn’t looked back since. Now, he’s competing against the best athletes in Canada. 
In an interview with The Journal, Hutcheson said he attributes a major part of his volleyball prowess to the dedication and support he’s received from both his Queen’s coaches and teammates. 
“They helped me develop not only on the court, but also personally through my academics [and] through my leadership as well.”
This personal development has come in handy at the NEP, where a typical day consists of rigorous training on and off the court, while balancing online school during the evenings. 
“On our toughest days we’re in the gym for probably close to seven hours, morning session from 9-12 p.m. with a workout after, and then from 4-7 p.m. we’re back in the gym again,” Hutcheson said. 
In the 2018-19 season, Hutcheson played 18 matches and 73 sets for a career-high record of 319.5 points. He was named a First Team All-Canadian in his final season with Queen’s. Meanwhile, in his first season with Queen’s, Siksna put up 164 kills and 60 digs in 18 games.
Due to COVID-19 and safety regulations,, the NEP and the coaches have taken precautions to ensure the safety of their athletes through regular sanitation of equipment and isolated courts. 
“We’ve been really fortunate to be able to have a full team on the court and our coaching staff here makes [sure] everything [is] sanitized with cleaning the balls and the weights after we’re done with them, and also having our court secluded to us,” Hutcheson said. 
Siksna reiterated the challenges of taking time off due to COVID-19 and the nerves he felt getting back into playing, but he was reassured by the dedication the NEP has made to its athletes. Despite the pandemic’s complications, Siksna is making the most out of the NEP. 
“[We’ve] received some really good guidance from the coaches, and I think I am already playing better than I was when I left off back in March,” he said.
Siksna maintained a sharp .294 hitting percentage in his first year playing for the Gaels, ranking fourth in the OUA. The same year, he continued the streak, received the Rookie of the Year award, and became the first member of the Gaels to be the recipient of the Ken Davis Memorial Award for his on-court accomplishments. 
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to train at such a high level, and for the Queen’s coaches and teammates for supporting us on this journey as well.” 

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