Youth value U17 opportunity and friendships

Two volleyball players from Terrace, B.C. competed on under-17 Team BC in nationals recently and said it was a great experience.

Lucas Mantel and Evan Veldman from Terrace were among the 12 under-17 youth selected for Team BC development and nationals this summer.

Two Terrace youth competed with the volleyball under-17 Team BC in nationals recently and returned home with new and strengthened friendships with players from across the province.

Evan Veldman and Lucas Mantel from Centennial Christian School played on U16 Team BC last year and this year won sixth at nationals with the U17 team.

They won three of four round robin games but then lost their shot at the title in a tough quarter final loss to Quebec, whom they had previously beat. In their first game against Quebec, they were down two sets and came back to win the next three. The quarter final rematch mimicked the same pattern at first, but the final stretch came with a disappointing spin.

They lost the first two sets and battled back to win the next two and even things up. Then in the final set, they were up 12-10, only three points from the win, when a Quebec player stepped up with a strong spin serve.

“He served a couple of aces, and we struggled passing it, and that was kind of the turning point,” Veldman said.

They lost the set 15-12 and then went on to beat Manitoba in five tight sets. Then they lost in five sets to Saskatchewan to finish sixth.

Overall the team won three games and lost four, with all except two going all the way to five sets.

“It seemed like every other game, we would not play so well in the first few sets, and we would just battle back,” Mantel said.

This was the second year for Mantel and Veldman to play volleyball in the Team BC development ranks. They were selected at a tryout last May, with close to 40 athletes from across B.C. vying for 12 spots.

Mantel said he felt less pressure trying out this year.

“Last year, we had no idea going into it how we ranked as far as skill level, but this year we kind of knew the other players,” he said.

Mantel and Veldman spent two weeks early this month in intense volleyball training with the U17 team in Vancouver and Langley as they geared up for nationals.

They had two training sessions every day, with some drills but a definite emphasis on game play.

“It was a lot of playing games, trying to bond the team, make things flow. A lot of systems work so that we could get a feel for how each other plays,” Mantel said.

U17 coach Brad Hudson said with the short time frame, they decided to emphasize relationships and trust in the team.

“This team will comprise the core of next summer’s Canada Games squad,” he said. “We also wanted to see how the group would perform both individually and collectively under duress when given new roles and responsibilities… [we] were extremely happy with the group.”

Hudson said both Terrace guys were valuable on the team.

“Evan was terrific. He works exceptionally hard and is highly coachable. We saw significant strides throughout his game but particularly in reception and in his shot making,” Hudson said.

He added that Veldman stood out as a strong server and was “an anchor” in receiving serves.

Mantel was originally selected as an alternate, but a spot opened for him to join the team at nationals and he jumped at it.

Hudson said he did exceptionally well and “showed very well in the matches that he started.”

“Lucas has tremendous potential as a control player and started to attack with variety and range. The coaches were exceptionally happy with his growth,” he said.

Overall, both players said it was a great experience.

The best part was “being with the guys,” Veldman said, adding that it was great to have the change to build the friendships they started at U16 last year.

Mantel agreed.

“[My favourite part was] hanging out with the team, especially after the games or after training,” Mantel said. “We went mini golfing, and in Kingston there was pier, so we would always go swimming after the games.”

Both players are heading into Grade 12 this fall and plan to tryout for the U18 team and play in Summer Games next year.