Winning consecutive provincial championships has fringe benefits, like boasting your school is sending five players onto the next level.
It’s where the KSS Owls girls’ volleyball team finds itself, with nearly its entire starting lineup off to university this fall or next.
Anya Pemberton, Amelia Anderson, Lexi Prefontaine, Maddy Hettinga and Sophie Lachapelle have all come to agreements with schools in Western Canada or the southern U.S.
“It’s really exciting,” said Hettinga, who is staying in Kelowna and attending UBCO. “It’s almost like a new start. It’s exciting to see over the five years I’m going to be playing, where I can get to.”
And that would be?
“I want to win a national championship.”
Kelowna Secondary’s volleyball program has done what few Interior schools can claim by winning back-to-back B.C. titles.
Success provincially attracted university coaches, but some of the girls also took control of their futures.
Pemberton — a 16-year-old Grade 11 middle-blocker — was playing beach volleyball at a tournament in California when scouts approached her.
It eventually landed her a scholarship offer to Arizona State University for 2021. She’ll be moving outside to full-time beach volleyball, one of the newer sanctioned NCAA sports.
Pemberton actually had two Arizona schools to chose from: Tempe’s ASU or Grand Canyon University in Phoenix.
“It was a little bit nerve-wracking,” Pemberton said. “I’m pretty relaxed now. I know where I’m going to go. The only issue is now finding out what I want to do there, academically.”
Amazingly enough, Pemberton is the second KSS girl to sign with the Sun Devils. She’ll join basketball star Taya Hanson in the desert.
“I went to elementary school with her younger sister,” said Pemberton, a six-foot middle-blocker. “We were pretty good friends.
“It’s really exciting,” she added. “I was always pretty used to playing competitive sports, and I was always trying to take it to the next level. Being there, I know I’m going to get a lot of touches and improve a lot.”
Pemberton is travelling the furthest, while Hettinga and Prefontaine are staying in Kelowna.
Prefontaine is also just 16 and will return to KSS for her senior season before joining UBCO in 2021.
“Their team is really young right now, and they’re just going to keep getting better as the team gets older and gets more experience,” said Prefontaine, a setter. “I love Kelowna … and it was still going to be a good volleyball experience and a good degree.”
She is hoping to study sciences, possibly psychology, but has time to make that decision. Prefontaine will join a Heat volleyball team that could be considered UBCO’s flagship athletics program. Coach Steve Manuel took UBCO to third in Canada in 2016 and reached the consolation final in 2018.
Hettinga, 18, said familiarity with the program made the decision easier. The Grade 12 middle/hitter has played with the Junior Heat club team.
“They’ve done a lot for me,” she said.
Hettinga is also a track star at KSS, and said she hopes to keep running while playing volleyball.
“Volleyball would probably be No. 1 if I had to choose. But I don’t think I’m ready to give up track and field yet.”
Anderson, 17, will head to Edmonton and play for the MacEwan University Griffins. The six-foot-one setter said she wanted to experience moving away from home, but not too far.
“When I went for my campus visit, everyone was so nice,” she said. “The girls were really welcoming; they made me feel really included. … It was my best option for volleyball, for sure.”
She has high hopes in the sport.
“Ever since I started playing volleyball, I’ve wanted to keep going with it. I want to play professional one day, so far this is the next step,” Anderson said. “It feels really good. I’m really happy I got the opportunity.”
Lachapelle, 17, has agreed to play with the SFU Clan in Surrey this fall. The six-foot-one, left-handed hitter is hoping to broaden her horizons with a university experience away from home.
SFU is unique in Canada in that many Clan teams compete in the U.S. Great Northwest Athletic Conference.
“I just really like the school,” Lachapelle said. “I like the programs they offer, and they have a really good team. I think it’s kind of cool that they’re in the NCAA so you get to go to the States a little bit.”
She’s hoping to study sciences, with an eye toward Sustainable Energy Engineering.
“It feels really good. I’m really excited about it. I love volleyball, and I’m really happy that I get to keep playing,” she said. “I’m excited to try something new, and have some new challenges.”