Nunavut readies for beach volleyball debut at Western Canada Summer Games

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Just when you thought it was safe to go to the beach, along comes Volleyball Nunavut with its big ideas.

There had been talk of Volleyball Nunavut entering beach volleyball teams into the 2019 Western Canada Summer Games in Swift Current, Sask., next month but it’s true. There will be a boys and girls team taking on teams from Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan when the Games get going on Aug. 8.

Scott Schutz, Volleyball Nunavut’s executive director, said this is the first step in what he hopes will be many for the territory on the sand.

“It’s different but I think this will catch on,” he said. “We’re excited about the possibilities and you never know where it will go from here.”

If you’ve never seen beach volleyball, it’s a smaller version of the indoor game with just teams of two rather than the usual six. The court is slightly smaller (8 m x 16 m vs. 9 m x 18 m for indoor) with the same system of sideout scoring on each rally. A team wins a set by getting to 21 first – winning by two points – and all matches are a best-of-three sets.

Aiden Anawak of Iqaluit heads for the pylons during a drill as part of the Volleyball Nunavut beach volleyball training camp in Apex, just outside of Iqaluit, late last month. photo courtesy of Volleyball Nunavut
Aiden Anawak of Iqaluit heads for the pylons during a drill as part of the Volleyball Nunavut beach volleyball training camp in Apex, just outside of Iqaluit, late last month.
photo courtesy of Volleyball Nunavut

Schutz said the call for players went out earlier this year with a good response.

“We had approximately six to 10 per gender express interest,” he said. “We’ve never had a tryout for beach volleyball before so we focused a lot on indoor players who had experience and who were older.”

The age limit is U19 for beach volleyball but Nunavut has the benefit of being allowed to use overage players up to the age of 20, he added.

“We can have players born as far back as 1999,” he said. “That’s where we want to start right now – getting the older players involved first and hopefully use that as a springboard to get more people playing both indoor and beach at the same time.”

Six players have been training since last month to get ready for the Games and while the final rosters aren’t set in stone, Schutz said all six have an equal shot.

“We have to figure it out pretty quickly,” he said. “We know we’ll have two per team for sure with an alternate for each.”

The teams will be heading to Saskatoon for a training camp beginning on July 28.

Rob Tomyn of Saskatoon is the head coach and he’s no stranger to the territory as he serves on the Volleyball Nunavut board as the director of coaching development. Sonja Lonsdale of Iqaluit will be the assistant coach.

“We had to ask (sport and recreation division) for permission to go outside the territory to get a coach because no one in Nunavut is at the level required,” said Schutz. “Rob’s done a lot of work for us over the years and he’s fairly well-known.”

Being that this is the first time Nunavut will enter a beach volleyball competition, there are absolutely no illusions of grandeur nor are there and thoughts about being a giant-killer.

Schutz said the trip to Swift Current is merely to find out where things sit.

“We want to figure out where we are,” he said. “Our ultimate goal is working toward the 2021 Canada Summer Games and this if the first step. All of our players should still be eligible for that so hopefully they’ll think about that.”

FACT FILE – Nunavut beach volleyball rosters

Boys

Ian McDonald, Iqaluit

Brent Puqiqnak, Gjoa Haven

Aiden Anawak, Iqaluit

Girls

Talia Grant, Rankin Inlet

Emily Ann Niego, Iqaluit

Oleta Metuk, Iqaluit

source: Volleyball Nunavut