By Kevin Parnell - Kelowna Capital News
Published: December 10, 2010 11:00 PM
A couple of years off competitive volleyball hasn’t kept UBCO Heat power hitter Greg Niemantsverdriet from putting spikes away with the best hitters in Canada.
Niemantsverdriet was named the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association athlete of the month for November after a startling start to his Heat career.
The outside hitter has helped lead the UBC Okanagan Heat to a No. 2 national ranking. He is second in the BCCAA in overall offensive scoring at 4.43 points per set and one of the most dangerous servers in the conference.
All of this after stepping away from competitive volleyball for two years.
“I was a little rusty when I came back but it’s going well now so that’s good,” said Niemantsverdriet, a Vernon Secondary School graduate. “I was hating having the time off. This is so much better.”
Niemantsverdriet was recruited by UBC right out of high school and began a CIS career with the Thunderbirds men’s volleyball team two years ago in Vancouver. But it turned out to be a failed experiment for the 6-foot-3 power hitter. He played just one year before returning home to Vernon and taking time off from school and from volleyball.
This past year though he was ready to return to the classroom and the gym and turned to UBCO to kick start his career.
“At the beginning it was a little different level of competition that what I was used to,” he said. “But it’s great. The program has come a long way compared to where it used to be.”
And next year, when UBCO steps up to the CIS level, Niemantsverdriet will be back in the CIS along with the rest of his teammates as the Heat move up to the top level of university sports in Canada.
“I think it will be an eye opener for us next year,” he said. “It’s quite a bit more physical game. Everyone is a lot bigger. It might take a year or two but we’re hoping next year we can hold our own.”
This season for UBCO athletics is like a tale of two different seasons. The Heat want to do well and are aiming for provincials and nationals. They are also looking ahead to next year as team’s get set for the CIS.
For men’s volleyball coach Greg Poitras, having a player with CIS experience will help the transition.
“Having Greg join our crew was a step in the right direction,” said Poitras. “He played with guys at the CIS level so he knows what it’s like at that level.”
This season Niemanstsverdriet is just happy to be back on the court, bashing serves and spikes and studying towards a bachelor of arts degree.
Getting the nod for the CCAA player of the month is a nice way to start but he says there are more important goals that lay ahead.
“It’s a nice gesture,” he said. “I wasn’t really expecting it. To me it’s great but the end result is I want to win. I want to be a provincial champion and a national champion.”
The Heat are off until after Christmas when they play some exhibition matches. BCCAA league play continues in the new year.