The University of the Fraser Valley women’s volleyball program has signed a seven-player recruiting class, and it’s a group which appears uniquely poised to make an immediate impact.
Four of the seven newcomers are transferring from other post-secondary squads, giving Cascades head coach Mike Gilray an infusion of veteran seasoning alongside some promising young talent. All seven players hail from B.C.
Shaylene Reimer (Surrey) returns to the Fraser Valley after playing NCAA Div. 1 volleyball at the University of New Orleans last year; Cassidy Pearson (Tsawwassen) and Kim Bauder (Langley) are transferring from the Manitoba Bisons and the Memorial Sea-Hawks CIS programs, respectively; and Jessica Funk (Surrey) comes to UFV from a PacWest rival, the Douglas Royals.
Joining the Cascades straight out of high school are Hanna Hieltjes (New Westminster), Teagan Johnstone (Langley) and Amanda Matsui (Port Coquitlam).
“We were very young last year, and by bringing in transfer students, we’re able to fill holes throughout our five-year cycle,” Gilray noted. “We’ve gained some size and some great ball control, and in terms of the level of competition at practice, they’ll make us a better team, for sure.”
Pacific Academy (Surrey, B.C.)
Playing libero for the New Orleans Privateers last season, Reimer averaged 2.69 digs and 0.38 aces per set, and was named to the all-tournament team at the FGCU Hilton Garden Inn Classic.
Reimer, who can also play outside hitter and has a dynamic swing, had a much-decorated high school career at Surrey’s Pacific Academy. She won bronze and gold medals in 2013 and 2014, respectively, at the B.C. AA senior girls championship and earned first team all-star honours both years. She’s also a past member of the B.C. provincial team program, winning a silver medal at the U17 national championship.
Gilray first took note of Reimer during a game between Pacific Academy and Surrey Christian in 2015, before she headed down to New Orleans.
“Shay absolutely stood out in that match as a player who had no fear and who played to win no matter what,” recalled Gilray, who was thrilled to hear Reimer was interested in returning home this summer. “We started the recruiting process very late, after club provincials and nationals this year. She was the last recruit that we signed, and she’ll be an absolute difference-maker.”
“I chose UFV because I think it would be a good place for me to grow and develop as an athlete and a student while making memorable friendships along the way,” said Reimer, who will pursue a bachelor of arts degree.
6’0” left side
South Delta Secondary (Tsawwassen, B.C.)
Pearson averaged 2.14 kills per set as a Manitoba Bisons freshman in 2015-16.
The hard-hitting left side had a sparkling high school career, helping the South Delta Sun Devils win three straight B.C. AAAA championships (2012, ’13 and ’14) and earning second team all-star honours in 2014. Additionally, her Fraser Valley Volleyball Club side finish fifth at the U18 national championships two years in a row.
“This is a young lady who was starting not only in CIS, but in Canada West, which is in the toughest conference by far,” Gilray enthused. “We’re really excited to have her swinging outside for us next year. We hope that being home and being surrounded by family and friends will create a great volleyball experience for her. We’re really happy to have her.”
“During my time as a Cascade, my goal is to meet new people along with becoming the best person and volleyball player I can be,” stated Pearson, who will begin her academic career at UFV in general studies. “I’m excited to attend UFV because it gives me the opportunity to stay close to home while I play the sport I’m passionate about.”
5’9” left side/designated server
Langley Fundamental Secondary (Langley, B.C.)
Bauder returns to the Valley after two productive seasons in St. John’s, Nfld. with the Memorial Sea-Hawks. She was voted to the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) all-rookie team in 2014-15, and as a sophomore in 2015-16, finished second on her squad with 3.28 digs per set.
During her high-school days, Bauder earned provincial all-star honours after leading the Langley Fundamental Titans to a silver medal at the 2013 B.C. AA championship, and was on The Province newspaper’s Super 15 list of the top graduating volleyball players in B.C. She’s also excelled on the sand, winning a U18 provincial beach volleyball title and finishing third at U18 nationals.
“I’ve known Kim for a few years going through the Fraser Valley club system, and we’re excited to add her,” Gilray said. “She’s got great ball control, she’s very experienced, and she knows a lot of the girls on our team from past years.”
“I chose UFV because it is a great school close to home (with a Tim Hortons on campus), and I wanted to be part of a growing athletics program,” said Bauder, who will enrol in general studies at UFV. “I hope to graduate with my degree and see the team be very successful, and ultimately become national champions.”
Pacific Academy (Surrey, B.C.)
Joining the Cascades is a family affair for Funk – she’ll get to play alongside her sister Rachel, a veteran left side. Both Funk siblings will be entering their third years of eligibility.
During her time with the Douglas Royals, Jessica Funk earned PacWest all-rookie honours in 2014-15 and led the conference in aces (0.72 per set) last season. With Cascades starting setter Nicole Blandford having graduated in the spring, there’s opportunity for Funk to contribute immediately, and Gilray noted that she was the only player in the PacWest who had more aces per set than Blandford.
“It’s a perfect fit,” Gilray said. “Jessica gives us everything we need at that position moving forward. She’s going into her third year of eligibility so we’ve got some time with her, and she fits right in personality-wise. A lot of our girls, when she transferred, told me that she was the toughest setter in the league to read where she was going with the ball. That’s a great compliment to her.”
“I’m excited to pursue my education in the nursing program at UFV,” Funk said, “and have an opportunity to play competitive volleyball with my sister.”
St. Thomas More Collegiate (New Westminster, B.C.)
Hieltjes had a stellar senior season at St. Thomas More Collegiate – she was named a Lower Mainland independent school league all-star, and was MVP of the final match. She also picked up the tournament MVP award at the VIU high school girls tourney, and was team MVP at the UBC tourney. Additionally, she had a strong club season, earning MVP honours with the Coquitlam Ducks.
Hieltjes is a multi-sport athlete, and Gilray became intrigued at her potential after watching her play a game of ultimate, the increasingly popular frisbee sport.
“Hannah, I’d say, will be one of our best all-around athletes,” he predicted. “She’s amazing, she’s fast, she can jump extremely well. Watching her play another sport really showed off her athleticism. And as much as athleticism is important, we’re also looking at how this person will fit our culture of working hard and being committed to excellence. Hannah has that across the board with schoolwork, with volleyball and with other sports. I think we’ve really found a diamond in the rough.”
“UFV came very highly recommended to me as an excellent university,” said Hieltjes, who will study business administration. “Season after season, the Cascades have proven to be a strong team that trains hard and earns wins. I am very excited to have the chance to play with a great team and am looking forward to more successful seasons to come.”
Langley Christian (Langley, B.C.)
Johnstone is coming off a very strong club campaign, helping her BCO Volleyball Club win gold at the recent U18 provincial championships. During the 2015 high school season, she helped the Langley Christian Lightning to a seventh-place finish at AA provincials. She’s proven to be an ascendant prospect, earning most improved player awards with her high school squad and with Team B.C.
“I was sent a recruiting video from Teagan, and it was probably one of the best recruiting videos I’ve ever seen,” Gilray said. “She’s had some great coaching at Langley Christian, and technically, she’s doing some amazing things as a blocker. She’s raw still – she’s so dynamic that we almost have to rein it in. But when she works in our system and incorporates some of that feedback, she’ll be very strong.”
“I chose UFV because the training is good and the girls are great,” said Johnstone, who will work towards a kinesiology degree. “My dream and goal is to win a national championship as a Cascade.”
6’1” left side
Riverside Secondary (Port Coquitlam, B.C.)
Matsui will begin her Cascades career as a redshirt – she’s recovering from a knee injury suffered during high school basketball season.
So Gilray will have to wait to get her into the lineup, but that dampens none of his enthusiasm at adding an athlete of Matsui’s calibre – he noted that she was hotly recruited by several other programs.
“We’re excited to get her,” he said. “She’s a strong left side with great size at 6’1”. She’s been rehabbing really hard, and best-case scenario, she’ll be back in January, though we’d have to evaluate whether it would be worth using a year of eligibility.”
Matsui, who will pursue a bachelor of criminal justice degree at UFV, had an exceptional high school career. She was named an all-star at AAAA provincials in her Grade 11 and Grade 12 seasons, helping the Riverside Rapids to a pair of podium finishes – silver in 2014, and bronze in 2015. Matsui is a three-time athlete of the year award winner at Riverside Secondary, and also earned all-star accolades as a member of the Coquitlam Ducks club.
“I chose UFV because they have one of the best criminology programs in B.C., and I wanted to continue playing volleyball and knew UFV had one of the best programs in B.C.,” she said. “After talking to Mike about the school and the team, I knew it would be the perfect fit for me.”