In the Charles Hays Secondary School (CHSS) gymnasium, Helen Vo is going through drills with other members of the senior girls volleyball team. A few days earlier, the team just qualified to compete in the provincial tournament, and will be playing against some of the best teams in British Columbia.
The team played well to get to finals, beating a talented and organized Smithers team in three tightly contested sets, but the coaches feel there are things they need to work on to be ready for the elevated level of play they will encounter.
Today, the main focus is on defence. Specifically, being in the correct position to play the ball if it hits the net. Being ready for this situation takes control, positioning and the awareness to react in a split second. Vo and her teammates dive to get underneath the balls and knock them into the air, hopping back to their feet to be in position for the next play. The play won’t end until the ball has cleared the net, and there are lots more drills to complete before practice finishes
For Vo, volleyball is a hard game, but she says that being able to execute with her teammates is what makes playing the sport she loves so rewarding.
“Compared to other sports, you have to have a big sense of teamwork to win each and every single point,” she said. “It’s not a one person thing. Everyone has to work together to get the same goal.”
Born and raised in Prince Rupert, 17-year-old Vo is currently in her final year at CHSS, and it’s her last year playing volleyball at the high school level.
While she currently plays power for the team, Vo acknowledges that it took her some time to develop the skills necessary to plau when she was still a grade 9 junior player. Vo had never played volleyball before attending highschool, instead practising Taekwondo and participating in air cadets.
Vo said her first team try out was difficult despite her enthusiasm to get involed.
“We were all fresh to the new sport,” she said. “We were interested, but we weren’t good at it at all.”
Despite the difficult start, Vo knew the volleyball court was a place she wanted to spend a lot of time.
“I remember going into the gym and just loving the feeling of being there and the atmosphere of it,” she said. “I loved getting new skills down and perfecting every move.”
As time went on, that junior squad’s indiviual and team skills improved to the point where they were able to win the B-level zones for their division. Many of those players, including Vo, went on to try out for the schools senior team. She said it was immediately clear how much higher the level of play was going to be.
“It was very competitive,” she said. “…but at the end of the day, we were just very happy with how much we were able to improve.”
Last year, the senior team won the northwest zones to qualify for the provincial tournament for the first time in more than five years. Even though they were ranked 15 out of 16 teams, Vo said they were happy to participating.
This year’s team faced new challenges, including losing several players who had graduated and working with new coaches who weren’t familiar with them. Despite the lack of continuity, the Rainmakers were able to build over the course of the season, culminating in their victory against Smithers to go back to Provincials. Vo was named the game’s MVP.
“We knew we wanted it more than they did,” she said. “And we’d worked hard all season long. We knew we couldn’t let that go to waste.”
Event though this will be her last highschool tournament. Vo knows she wants volleyball to be a part of her future, whether it’s at the university level or recreationally with her friends. She said the game has given her far to much to let it go.
“It’s such a relaxing place, and it gets me out of bad moods,” she said about being on the volleyball court. “Whenever I step into the gym, all my worries are behind me. I don’t have to care about anything except fot the ball, and I love that feeling where nothing else matters.”