Sports This Week - Canadian part of new pro volleyball league

Regular readers will recall my article last August with Joey Lye, one of four Canadians playing in the inaugural year of Athletes Unlimited softball league, played of course in a 'bubble'.

The softball effort was always just a first step into offering women new pro sport leagues to participate in; with volleyball and field lacrosse always in the plan.

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Well COVID-19 was a hurdle for softball that AU was able to overcome, and while the pandemic remains all to a real health issue, the organization launched its volleyball effort on the weekend.

Among the six teams, one Canadian Brie King from B.C., is participating and thanks to AU I was able to catch up with for a chat just a few days ahead of the first serve.

Being the lone Canadian is something King said she is using as a motivator.

"I definitely feel the significance of it ... Being the only Canadian is really special," she said, adding that she doesn't exactly feel pressure because of it.

But, King said she does feel it important to play well "to show what volleyball in Canada is like."

In that regard King, a member of the Canadian National Team program, said the women's game has admittedly struggled in recent years, which she added is simply an indication that the number of players in this country are limited.

"Canadian volleyball (women's) has traditionally not been that strong," said King. "There's such low numbers of girls playing volleyball in our country."

It was back in 1996 that Yorkton'sLori Ann Mundtand Langenburg's Kerri Buchburger were on the Canadian team attending the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

And the girls that do play typically don't start playing until junior high school, and only start getting high level coaching at the high school or older level, she added.

But things are improving with the national team now in the top-20 in the world, and the team qualifying for the Volleyball Nation's League.

As for being among the women in AU, King sort of fell into a spot.

"I was negotiating a contract last April (2020). I was really close to going to play in Turkey," she said, but with the pandemic "... it just didn't work out."

Then a call came from AU noting they had heard King was "looking to stay closer to home this season," and an offer followed.

While King said she had not been aware of the AU effort, once she looked into "I jumped at it."

Of course heading to a 'bubble' in the US in the middle of a pandemic was still a big step, but King said she felt safe adding "COVID has has a huge effect on everything in everyone's life."

But she said the opportunity to play was too enticing not to accept.

"There are so many girls with little chance to play volleyball," she noted, adding to have the chance "to be on court playing ... to get to play volleyball" is exciting, especially given the talent level in AU.

As with AU softball, individual players will earn points based on what they do on court.

"I think it's awesome the individual point system," she said what earns a player point "is very accurate" in terms of what skills are important in the sport of volleyball.

"It's really just shedding light on what is important and not important."

And while you want to earn points it can't be a player's focus either.

"You have to just go and play hard," said King, adding individual points will come with that effort.

The AU model also has teams reforming after each week, with players earning the most individual points becoming captains in drafting new squads.

"I probably think it's the coolest thing ever," said King. "It's so fun and exciting to get to play with a huge range of girls."

In week one King was a team captain, and headed into action with two Olympians on her team.

"I feel really fired up to play," she said two days ahead of the season start.

On day one of the competition Team King dropped the opening sets 25-12 and 25-21 to Team (Lianna) Sybeldon, then won set three 25-23.

Check out AU at auprosports.com/volleyball

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