Former Spartan a Canadian defender
Volleyball: Jessica Niles playing libero for junior nationals
By: Bruce Campbell
| Posted: Wednesday, Aug 14, 2013 10:28 am
A Turner Valley resident spent July in Winnipeg, not swatting at mosquitoes but digging out spikes for the Canadian junior women’s volleyball team.
Jessie Niles, 20, made the junior national team as a libero — a defensive specialist who patrols the backcourt preventing fast-moving volleyballs from hitting the floor.
“The national team had an open tryout where you tried out for the national team, the World University Games team and the Junior team,” Niles said. “I was selected for the Junior team.”
If Niles had any visions of soaking up rays on renowned Lake Winnipeg for the month, she had another thing coming. The hard-working Niles was on the court day after day.
“We were training for six hours a day and doing weights four times a week,” Niles said. “We were able to focus on our skills without the pressure of competition. It was a great experience to be with national coaches and such great players.”
She didn’t get the chance to travel with the junior nationals due to a lack of funds.
“I didn’t get to compete internationally, but I hope to continue with the national program and hopefully that will come,” she said.
Niles' volleyball roots are firmly planted in the Foothills. She was both a member of the Oilfields Drillers before transferring to Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School, where she was a member of the provincial champion Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School Spartans in 2010. However, she was a leader off the floor mostly. She missed the second half of the season, including the high school provincial championships, due to a rolled ankle.
In spite of her injury, Niles caught the eye of a university powerhouse before the injury.
She enrolled at the University of Alberta in the fall of 2011 and was a member of the Canadian Interuniversity Sport silver-medalists U of A Pandas the past two years.
It was at U of A where Niles became a libero. She was a hard-hitting power with the Spartans.
“I played left side or power my whole career up until halfway through my first season at U of A,” Niles said. “Then the starting libero got injured and they asked me to switch positions.” The switched suited her well.
“I’m only 5’10” and most of the hitters in university are six feet,” Niles said. “This seems to be a good fit for me… I wasn’t too surprised because U of A is a very strong program. I knew as a smaller hitter and in the big scheme of things I did okay at 2A (high school), but the CIS is really stepping up.
“At the end of the day, I just wanted to be on the court," she said. "Libero gave me a role I could fill and have a positive impact.”
Playing defence and throwing herself on the floor more times than a janitor’s mop was nothing new for Niles. She said her coaches in club volleyball and STS coach Michelle Bartoshyk emphasized defence and passing.
Her immediate goal is to help the Pandas win a Canadian.
Niles has also thrown herself at the books with the same passion as volleyball. She is biology major with a business minor and has made the Dean’s honour roll the past two years.
Her long-term goal to play internationally. She has two more cracks at the World University Games and she added there may be opportunities to play professionally in Europe after graduating from U of A.