A pair of junior volleyball players are in southern Ontario this week meeting other players from across the province and working on their skills at a higher level.
As part of the Team Ontario Regional Program, Payton Dolyny and Caleigh Counselor — both heading into Grade 10 at Fort Frances High School (FFHS) in September — have been selected from the region to attend a development camp in Guelph and then go on to play at the Ontario Summer Games in Mississauga. The pair were teammates on the FFHS Muskies junior team as Grade 9 students.
“Our coach told us about the try outs,” Dolyny and Counselor said. “It was definitely Goose (volleyball coach Terry McMahon) who let us know about it and believed in us to try out.”
Fort Frances is in Region One for the program — an area that stretches from Kenora in the west, to as far east as Marathon. Dolyny and Counselor were two of four girls selected from the region. Trying out involved filming a video of different volleyball skills and a basic personal introduction. The girls did this before school got out for the summer.
“We found out sometime in June, we were in geography class,” Dolyny said.
Taking a step outside of Fort Frances and onto a bigger stage to play with players they haven’t met before is a little nerve wracking, they say.
“I’m kind of nervous, but it will be fun,” Counselor said. “It will be a lot different from how it is here.”
FFHS junior volleyball coach Terry McMahon says he thinks the program will help the girls step up their game.
“I’m glad they tried out,” McMahon said. “Any time an athlete can go to that next level will help them. They’ll get to meet other coaches, they get to play in a much faster game and I think they’ll take a lot from it.
He also thinks that Dolyny and Counselor are good choices for the program.
“Their athleticism and their love for the game, you can see how much they enjoy it,” he said. “When you enjoy something that much, getting better is a byproduct, because it’s something you want to do and you’re willing to work towards it.”
The high school girls volleyball season took place earlier in the spring, so the girls have been practicing on their own time, working with McMahon through the 807 Selects Volleyball Club.
“We set up a volleyball net in our backyard,” Dolyny said. “So I’ve been practicing my serves and then my my throws the ball for me and I hit them.”
“I play volleyball with my brother outside,” Counselor added.
The pair have also been practicing outside with McMahon. The Times met with them at McIrvine Rotary Park where they were having their last practice with their coach before leaving for Guelph.
“We’re just trying to give them a little bit more confidence to go down there,” McMahon said. “It’s just kind of shaking the rust off and if they have anything in particular they want to work on.”
He also hopes they’ll bring some experiences back to their teammates on the junior team at FFHS for next year.
“I think they’ll bring back knowledge of the next level,” McMahon said. “Experience and intensity as well. At this age in our region I think a lot of times it’s missing the intensity, not for lack of effort or anything, it’s just something we don’t really know. I think they’ll make the whole group better.”