Setter hopes to peak for Big Country

Alberta Winter Games: DeWinton player confident going into Banff

By: Bruce Campbell

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jan 22, 2014 06:00 am

DeWinton volleyball player Rijel Hunley, 14,  sets at a Peak Volleyball practice Friday at Westmount School. Hunley has made the Big Country team for the Alberta Winter Games.
DeWinton volleyball player Rijel Hunley, 14, sets at a Peak Volleyball practice Friday at Westmount School. Hunley has made the Big Country team for the Alberta Winter Games.
Bruce Campbell/OWW

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Family set the wheels in motion for a DeWinton volleyball player going to the Alberta Winter Games.

“My mom entered for me to try out and I was able to make it,” said 14-year-old Rijel Hunley. “My sister played in the Winter Games six or seven years ago and she liked it, and I wanted to try out and see how I could do.”

Hunley was selected for the Zone 2 (Big Country) team after a tryout in Calgary before the Christmas holidays.

“There was a lot of good players out there, but I thought I was one of the better setters,” Hunley said. “I am always confident. I guess there is a fine-line between confidence and cockiness.”

Hunley is a member of the new Peak Volleyball Club in Okotoks. His Peak coach, Tony Canevaro, said the Grade 9 Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School student’s tenacity and competitiveness are definite assets on the court.

“He is fiercely competitive, he’s got big-time drive to be the best,” Canevaro said. “If you put a challenge in front of him, he wants to overcome it.”

Hunley’s playing time with Peak will come in handy as there is limited practice time for Big Country prior to the Alberta Winter Games in Banff/Canmore Feb. 6-9.

“We have practiced only about five times,” Hunley said. “But most of the guys are club players and club usually practices four or five time a week.”

Unfortunately, they belong to different clubs. Hunley admitted it can be difficult to set for players he hasn’t played with.

“You have to adjust to it — different guys like different sets,” he said. “There’s not one set for everybody. I have to learn how they like the ball set, but I can adjust pretty quickly.”

Hunley moved to DeWinton two years ago and after spending last volleyball season playing club ball in Calgary, he switched to Peak.

“The coach (Canevaro) is really dedicated to the team and he is bringing in experienced guys to help us strive to be the best we can,” Hunley said. “We are practicing lots and we are getting better.”

Hunley is playing for Peak’s U-16 team, a year ahead of his age group.

“He is a little undersized for U-16, so in certain environments, from a defensive perspective, we might use the other guy because he is a little bigger,” Canevaro said. “But he (Hunley) probably has the best hands on the team.”

Even hard work and confidence can’t give Hunley a few more inches in height.

Although five-foot-nine in Grade 9 doesn’t mean you are on the front row for class picture day, it’s not quite tall enough for volleyball.

“I’m not very tall and as a setter I need a big block because I’m blocking the hardest position, power, I find that pretty hard,” he said. “At the U-16 level most of the kids are six-foot.”

However, he said he hopes his strong setting and good serve compensate for his lack of size.

Hunley is setting his heights high for the Games and the future. He would like to be the starting setter for Big Country. As well, he would like to make the Senior varsity Strathcona-Tweedsmuir Spartans as a Grade 10 student next year.

The Big Country boundary surrounds Calgary. It includes athletes from Banff to the Saskatchewan border west to east, and from Olds to High River north to south.

For more information about the Alberta Winter Games go to www.2014AWG.ca

For more information about the Peak Volleyball Club in Okotoks go to www.peakvolleyballclub.com

bcampbell@okotoks.greatwest.ca


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