SURREY — Her path to top in the world of B.C. girls high school volleyball was more than a tad bit unconventional.
In fact, circumstances were such that Cecilee Max-Brown basically didn’t even suit up over her last two high school seasons.
Yet the 6-foot-1 outside hitter who will graduate this spring from Surrey’s Earl Marriott Secondary before embarking on an NCAA Div. 1 career stateside with the Pac 12’s Oregon State Beavers made enough of an impression through her time with the Canadian junior national team and within the local club scene that she was the clear choice as Varsity Letter’s 2018 B.C. Girls High School Volleyball Player of the Year as voted on by the head coaches of this province’s U Sports and NCAA women’s volleyball programs.
Said head coach Chad Grimm of Kamloops’ Thompson Rivers University: “Cecilee is a dynamic outside hitter who can hit all angles with velocity and is a true six-rotation player due to her combined passing, defence, blocking, serving and attacking skills. She has the ability to excel at the next level.”
A devotee of Surrey’s Academy Volleyball, where she has been a morning workout warrior throughout her high school-aged career, Max-Brown, a straight-A student, made the decision as a Grade 11 student in October of 2017 to transfer from White Rock Christian Academy to nearby Semiahmoo Secondary to find what she hoped would be her best academic-athletic fit.
She did not play for the remainder of her Grade 11 season, yet when her senior season rolled around this past fall, she says she discovered that Semiahmoo was not fielding a senior varsity girls team.
So Max-Brown then transferred to another Surrey school, Earl Marriott, but was deemed ineligible to play due to B.C. School Sports rules.
“I still had the junior national team over the summer, so having a bit of a break was not that tough,” said Max-Brown. “Besides, my club coaches have really instilled a mental toughness in me.”
Most of that intestinal fortitude, however, is solely her own.
In fact, ask Academy Volleyball boss David Carrasco about such matters, and he paints the picture of an intensely dedicated young lady whose work ethic sets a new bar daily.
“She joined my morning program four years ago when she was in Grade 9,” begins Carrasco of sessions which require 5:45 a.m. arrival and begin promptly at 6 a.m. twice a week from September through May.
“There are a lot of athletes who do it for a year,” Carrasco continues, “but when you’re do it going on now four straight years, you can tell she loves working hard.”
It’s reflected in what university coaches around this province all agree, is a skill set tailor-made to excel at the next level.
“Cecilee is incredibly dynamic and athletic,” says UBC Okanagan Heat head coach Steve Manuel. “She jumps well and has a great arm. She hits fast and with good pace. I believe that she is a complete player and can do it all in the front court and back court.”
Adds Simon Fraser head coach Gina Schmidt: “I coached Cec on the junior national team this summer and what sets her apart is her athleticism, skill and competitiveness. She has the size, speed and jump to play at the next level. She is also very skilled as a result of her strong work ethic and drive to continually get better. She brings a presence and a fire to the court that pushes her teammates to be better as well.”
The best part of her volleyball persona is the true love she has to continually improve.
“When you have a player of her calibre, they usually only show up for the elite stuff,” Carrasco says of camps his volleyball club would hold over the summer. “They might say ‘I’m too good for this’ but Cecilee doesn’t care. She will be right in there training next to a more recreational-based kid. She just wants to work hard and get her touches.”
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