The largest school-based volleyball tournament in Canada is only days away.
Volleyfest will be held at 34 sites in greater St. John’s and features 180 school teams from across Newfoundland, in addition to Sackville High from Nova Scotia.
Nearly 2,500 athletes will compete (from Grades six to 12); 80 officials will take part and 350 coaches will walk the sidelines, starting Friday and concluding the next day.
Russell Jackson, executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Volleyball Association, says the tourney has come a long way since its inception in 1997.
“Volleyfest is a celebration of volleyball and a way to kick off the start of the season,” says Jackson. “It’s a way to get people, and keep people, involved in volleyball here in the province.
“When it started we had 50 teams and they didn’t think it could get any bigger. This year we have 180 teams. We’re bursting at the seams and growing tremendously”
In addition to smaller school sites, the tourney will see action at two major venues – the Memorial University Field House (home of the MUN Sea-Hawks varsity team) and the Provincial Sports Centre on Crosbie Road in St. John’s. The Sea-Hawks women’s team will entertain the young volleyballers with an intra-squad game Saturday afternoon.
“In addition to playing in a high-caliber tournament, this event gives every school that plays volleyball from Corner Brook to St. John’s an opportunity to see where they stack up,” says Jackson.
“There’s a real community atmosphere. It’s not us (the NLVA) who makes it happen. It’s the teachers and coaches who have made it grown prosperous from year to year. It’s a great way to get the volleyball community all together in one place.”
Volleyfest is sandwiched by two smaller regional tournaments: Volleywest (held recently in Corner Brook) and Volleycentral slated for Nov. 2-3 in Gander/Grand Falls-Windsor.
Jackson didn’t hesitate when asked to name some early Volleyfest favourites.
“On the senior high male side, it would have to be Clarenville High,” says Jackson. “They won Volleywest and recently won the Dal (Dalhousie University) Classic.
“In female senior high, Exploits Valley High (Grand Falls), Corner Brook High and Sackville High will be teams to watch.”