KELOWNA, BC – Playing club volleyball with the Junior Heat program has given Sydney McKinlay enough of a taste of the UBC Okanagan women's volleyball program to know she wants more.
This fall the Princess Margaret Secondary product will continue to train in the gym she has known for years and continue to wear a Heat uniform, only now she will be a member of the CIS squad that just in March earned a national bronze medal.
“I've wanted to attend and play for UBCO ever since my first year of playing with the Jr Heat. I really admire the entire coaching staff and their coaching philosophy,” the five-foot-eleven outside hitter explained.
As a member of a Junior Heat club team Sydney was coached directly by Heat assistant coach Becki Kosinski and, on many occasions, two-time CIS coach of the year and UBC Okanagan head coach Steve Manuel would add his input.
The connection made between the player and coaches have the soon-to–be graduate of Penticton’s Princess Margaret Secondary ready for the new challenge.
“I am beyond excited for this opportunity and look forward to developing my skills within the positive environment created by the team and coaches,” McKinlay said.
After moving to the Okanagan from Kimberly, B.C. before her grade nine year, Sydney utilized the excellent training and coaching she received from both the Kootenay Volleyball Canada Centre of Excellence and the East Kootenay Volleyball Club to make an impact on the Okanagan volleyball scene.
Steve Manuel, who took the women’s volleyball team to a national medal this past season, had seven Okanagan products on the roster and faced a junior Heat alumnus in the national semi-final - Erin Jacobs was a setter for the eventual national champion Toronto Varsity Blues and a Junior Heat alum, posits that “Sydney is another example of the type of student athlete that is being developed here in the Okanagan.”
“Since arriving in Penticton,” continues Manuel, “she has been training with our various programs (VCCE, Heat Development Camps, Jr Heat, etc.). Within a year of moving here, she was already playing up an age category in our Jr Heat program and making an impact.”
Sydney’s volleyball highlights are playing on Team BC in 2014 and capturing the Western Elite Gold Medal, also in 2014 with the 17U Junior Heat club team Sydney and her squad captured provincial gold. In 2016 with the 18U Junior Heat team, coached by Kosinski, Sydney grabbed provincial silver and a fifth place finish at the national championship.
“Sydney will make an excellent addition to our varsity team, we are excited to watch her continued development,” finished Manuel on his latest recruit who will study Psychology when she enters UBC Okanagan this fall. “I believe that we have only scratched the surface with this one, Sydney has a very high ceiling and has a ton of long term potential.”
With the loss of a half dozen players from a team that earned a record 22 regular season wins in Canada West coach Manuel had some spots to fill this spring.
Sydney will join two other graduates of the Junior Heat program, Natalie Livingston a 6’1” setter/outside hitter graduating this spring from Immaculata high school and former Kelowna Owl and a transfer from the University of Colorado 6’5” middle Aidan Lea. Sara McCreary (5-10 S, Edmonton, AB) and Brooklyn Reynolds (6-3 M, Regina, SK) are the two incoming players from outside the Okanagan.