LANGLEY — As he watched the captain of the Team B.C. Selects lead his province to a gold medal-finish at this past summer’s Canada Cup tournament, UBC Thunderbirds head coach Michael Hawkins saw more than just an enormous package of technical skill in Roan McCarthy, the student-athlete that Varsity Letters’ is proud to announce as its 2019-20 B.C. Boys Grade 12 Volleyball Player of the Year.
McCarthy captured three of the five first-place votes from our panel made up of the head coaches of B.C.’s U Sports men’s volleyball programs.
Setter Jonas Van Huizen of Langley Christian received two first-place votes and finished a close second, while not too far behind in third was 6-foot-10 right side Liam Espedido, a student at PoCo’s Terry Fox Secondary who plays for Fraser Valley Volleyball Club. Rounding out the top four was MEI’s 6-foot-5 middle blocker Tyson Ardell. Van Huizen will play for the Thompson Rivers WolfPack next season and Espedido for the Alberta Golden Bears.
“What sets Roan apart from other athletes in this class are his leadership qualities,” explained Hawkins, who next season will be welcoming the 6-foot-6 leftside hitter from Lake Country’s George Elliot Secondary into the blue-and-gold fold.
“Even though Roan has usually played up in age-group, he has always been someone who naturally rises to leadership positions,” continued Hawkins. “He just brings intensity into everything he does and takes on any challenge with grit and determination. He seeks out pressure-filled situations and has a history of clutch performances.”
If the surname sounds somewhat familiar in this context, you’re on point. McCarthy is indeed the younger brother of 2016-17 Player of the Year Fynn McCarthy, who also made the trek from George Elliot to UBC, where he helped lead the Thunderbirds to the 2018 Tantamar Trophy as U Sports national champions before embarking on a professional career which currently finds him overrseas where he plays for French club side Montpellier.
“He is different player from Fynn completely,” points out George Elliot head coach Chris Frehlick when comparing the brothers as high school players. “Fynn had the big jump and the super-high touch. Roan is more skillful as part of his serve-reception, defence and understanding of the game. As far as each coming out of high school, (Roan’s) game is much more polished.”
Adds Hawkins: “Though he is following in his brother’s footsteps coming to UBC, he will for sure carve out his own legacy as a Thunderbird.”
Although McCarthy’s Coyotes’ high school team at GESS was not the deepest and most-talented in school history, that aforementioned level of self-competitiveness revealed itself in the way he set an example for his teammates en route to a fourth-place finish in the Double-A tier at the B.C. high school championships last month at the Langley Events Centre.
“This year nobody was quite sure how well we would do, including me,” laughs Frehlick. “And many might have thought it would be a one-man show, but Roan showed his leadership and battled through the frustration, and in the end he helped his teammates improve. We ended up being a pretty strong team that was disappointed it didn’t finish with a medal.”
From a purely technical standpoint, UBC is getting a blue-chip talent.
“When I see Roan play, I see the ultimate competitor,” says Thompson Rivers’ longtime head coach Patrick Hennelly.
“He is a player who is looking to find a way to win at all times and I’ve witnessed several times where he takes over games from the service line. He really seems to relish those opportunities to stand out and perform in pressure situations.”
Hennelly may not have landed McCarthy, but he is bringing in a player in Van Huizen with the potential to become a program-changing presence.
“We like his competitive spirit and the fact he can switch positions between setting and hitting and still compete,” says Hennelly, who found out just last week that Van Huizen had committed to the Kamloops’ school. “We have recruited Jonas as a setter but his general game sense and ability to compete outside of his comfort zone certainly stand out. We clocked his serve at 105 (kilometres-per-hour) while he was on a visit and that is very high-end for a high school athlete.”
Hawkins also liked what he saw in the Langley Christian star.
“His athleticism allows him to make the difficult sets appear simple and he has the versatility to play multiple positions,” said the UBC coach, referencing the way in which Van Huizen was able to take on an outside hitting role for Team B.C. over the summer.
While so many of the 25 overall players recording votes had numbers which were all over the scale, Terry Fox’s Espedido was the most consistent outside of McCarthy.
The 6-foot-10 southpaw, whose ceiling is huge as both a blocker and attacker, was picked no lower than sixth and no higher than fourth by all five of B.C.’s U Sports coaches.
“His length will make him a handful at the next level,” said Hawkins. “He’s already an above-average blocker, taking away multiple angles from attackers, and he’ll be impactful as an attacker as well, especially as he continues to improve his strength and attack velocity.”
Espedido’s athleticism is further magnified by the fact that he is also a nationally-regraded high jumper.
“He’s the type of teammate that keeps the group together when things aren’t going well and is a source of energy when things are rolling, says Hawkins. “He is a great teammate, being a social connector on every team he plays.”
Then there’s Ardell, who made the top four a solid-gold quartet.
“Tyson is the best middle blocker in B.C. for the 2020 grad class,” said Hawkins. “He has good height, but excels as both an attacker and blocker through his quick speed and relentless attitude. His leadership is also undeniable, but likely not as visible to those that aren’t with him on the court. He’s extremely level-headed regardless of the situation, bringing poise to his team in all situations. He is supportive and positive with all his teammates, and his abilities as a leader are likely a big reason MEI won the B.C. Double-A title and he was named MVP.”
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