Three local volleyball members are being honoured for their performance and coaching from the Saskatchewan Volleyball Association (SVA).
Jina Barker won the Sask Volleyball Under 21 Female Athlete of the Year. The Saskatoon Huskies player was nominated by a member within the Sask Volleyball Association. Photo By Josh Schaefer
Aidan Saladana won the under-18 male athlete of the year as a member of the Moose Jaw Element Panthers, Jina Barker, with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, won the under-21 female athlete of the year and Chris Knoop won in the performance coach category for the Moose Jaw Element Panthers U18 mens team.
The SVA will hand out 22 awards in various categories on Nov. 3 in Regina following their annual general meeting.
Persons involved with SVA nominated the trio. After the nominations were received the operations staff, technical director and program manager make the selections.
“This is something that I never really expected or even thought about. This was never in the back in of my mind to think that I would get coach of the year now that we won (provincials),” said Knoop. “This was definitely the help of my team. We had a successful club season last year and it was nice to see that out of those kids because they put a lot of time into volleyball and it is nice to see that we got rewarded with the provincial championship and we did have a good year.”
On Knoop’s winning team was hitter Saladana, who is now a Grade 12 student at Central Collegiate. He first played on the team as a 16 years old. He was still a raw player at that time, Knoop said, but the level of competition helped him and his game. Last season, Saladana was a major factor in the Panthers victory.
“I think he stood out,” said Knoop of Saladana. “It is pretty neat for him too.”
It was shock for Saldana to win the award, but he is using it as a token of how far he has come in the sport.
“I didn’t know about it until I got the email. I was kind of surprised,” said Saldana. “I really just want to use this as a reminder and keep playing at my best.”
Barker has won this award three times now — she won in the under-16 and under-18 divisions as an outside hitter. This year she won as a setter — a switch she made not that long ago.
“I didn’t really start setting until I decided that I wanted to play CIS. Winnipeg needed a setter and ever since then, that has been my main focus,” Barker said. “It is a lot harder than being a hitter because you have to run the whole court and it takes a lot of growth and learning, but I’ve had a lot of coaches that have been supportive and helped me out a lot.”
Barker played well with the Huskies and at the Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke, Que. this past August. She thinks the way she played at those Games helped her win the award.
“I think it was good because I got a lot of extra reps and just kept playing all summer without a break,” said Barker. “Honestly, I think any of the girls that played Canada Games could have won and were very strong contenders for it. It means a lot to me because I worked really hard this year and playing Canada Games was a big decision.”
Having three Moose Jaw volleyball members win the award shows how far the club volleyball scene has come and what the players that participate can accomplish when given an avenue to perform at a high level.
“I think ever since Lewie Bell started the club teams in Moose Jaw however many years back, Moose Jaw has expanded a lot in the volleyball community,” explained Barker. “I think Moose Jaw has a lot of great coaches. I think we have Lewie to thank for this because he helped make a lot of players that made it to the CIS wouldn’t have made it there if it weren’t for him.”
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