Brandon’s Jessi Coulter, a provincial team member, dives for a ball during the Brandon University Bobcats Elite Volleyball Camp at the BU gymnasium in 2011.
When Courtney Bryant tried out for the provincial 16-and-under girls volleyball team, all she hoped for was to gain experience from the camp.
She’s getting a lot more than that as the 15-year-old Brandonite made one of three Manitoba teams that will compete at the Western Elite Championships in Winnipeg from July 27-29. The event features nine teams — three from Manitoba and two each from Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C.
The tournament is still a few weeks away, but Bryant feels she’s already learned a lot. All the Manitoba teams got together in Winnipeg on Tuesday to practice twice a day to prepare for the event and the first three days have pushed the left side player.
"It’s been really hard work and intense practices but it’s been really fun," said Bryant, a Neelin High School student. "… Personally, I think it’s making me a lot stronger as a player and understanding the different skills I’m going to need. It’s also improving skills and friendships, like meeting new people because we’re from everywhere."
Other players from Westman on the Manitoba Gold team include Virden’s Rhyan Sawyer and Killarney’s Rylie Dickson and Hayley Macauley.
Brandon’s Jessi Coulter has also had to adjust to playing with new teammates on Team Manitoba White, which is a 15U team that will also compete in the Western Elite Challenge.
Coulter, a 14-year-old left side who attends Vincent Massey, knew a lot of her teammates — like Killarney’s Elsa Ross, Virden’s Adrienne Richard and Russell’s Sydney Pickup — but had never played with them before.
"I’ve seen most of the girls before from playing against them, but playing with them and having such a good team as we have has been really exciting and I’m really looking forward to it," she said.
Coulter knows Manitoba White will have a long road ahead of them at the tournament as the youngest team there. However, they are still targeting a top-three finish and the Brandonite just wants to improve as much as she can.
"I’m viewing it as a really good learning experience and I’m sure everyone else on my team is, too," she said. "I’m looking to improve my skills and get to know different people."
Bryant also has similar goals for herself and her team at the Western Elite Challenge.
"We want to compete really well," she said. "Obviously winning it would be amazing, but we just want to go compete, work hard and get better."
Manitoba’s other squad — Team Black — includes Stephanie Nernberg and Cody Shwaluk of Russell, Rheanna Geisel and KC Love from Dauphin, as well as Binscarth’s Emma Ciprick.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 6, 2012