LANGLEY — Over our first eight years of joining forces with the head coaches at UBC, Simon Fraser, Trinity Western, UBC Okanagan and Thompson Rivers universities to select our annual B.C. high school girls volleyball Player of the Year, a universal truth has revealed itself.
And that is, quite succinctly, if you want to take top honours and you happen to be a setter, well, you better be beyond good.
Only once from 2009-16 has sport’s most cerebral, anticipatory and visionary position come out on the top of the B.C. girls heap, and that was way back in 2011 when Emily Oxland of North Vancouver’s Handsworth Royals was bestowed the honour before embarking on a successful post-secondary career in Kelowna with the embryonic UBC Okanagan Heat program.
Well, all these years later, we’ve finally gotten our next setter.
Kayla Oxland, the younger sister of Emily and soon-to-be Class of 2018 Handsworth graduate, has been voted by the B.C. university coaching quintet as Varsity Letters’ 2017 B.C. high school girls volleyball Player of the Year.
Oxland topped second-place finisher Savannah Purdy of Victoria’s Belmont Bulldogs, and third place finisher Tiffany Westerberg of Maple Ridge.
Oxland, Purdy and Westerberg were all recipients of at least one first-place vote from the five coaches.
“Knowing the pedigree and knowing the strong volleyball family, with her dad (Tom) coaching, she has grown up with the game,” said UBC head coach Doug Reimer, who welcomes Oxland into the camp of the blue-and-gold next season. “And when you watch Kayla play, you see that.”
Emily Oxland burst onto the senior varsity scene as a Grade 10 at the 2009 B.C. AAAA championships, earning MVP honours as she helped lead her Royals to the first of back-to-back B.C. titles.
Kayla led Handsworth to back-to-back B.C. AAAA title game appearances the past two seasons, but instead of championships, experienced the heartbreak of consecutive losses to Victoria’s Belmont Bulldogs.
And while setting is in her DNA, the youngest of the four volleyball-playing Oxland sisters is easily the most versatile.
As well, the extent to which she made her Handsworth teammates better this season was extraordinary.
“As a setter, she had that mindset to help those around her get better,” said Reimer who added that the Class of 2017 was one of the deepest in recent memory, “and she does that through her knowledge of the game, but also through her anticipatory skills. But she wasn’t only the best setter, she was her team’s best hitter.”
(Varsity Letters’ 2017 boys Super 15 arrives next week)
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