KELOWNA, BC – Looking to reload instead of rebuild the UBC Okanagan women’s volleyball team, fresh off a third place finish in the country have added strength to a position that lost two starters.
Aidan Lea a 6’5” middle blocker who graduated from Kelowna Secondary in 2014 and played one year in the Pac-12 with the Colorado Buffaloes has decided to transfer to her home town team for the 2016-17 season.
Graduating both starting middles, Katie Wuttunee and Katy Klomps, both CIS All-Canadians (Wuttunee this past season and Klomps in 2014-15) left a void in the middle with only Erin Drew seeing significant floor time in the middle for the defending Canada West finalists.
To address the lineup void reigning CIS coach of the year Steve Manuel has filled his hole in the middle with not only a highly coveted recruit but also one he was very familiar with.
“I have kept a close eye on Aidan’s development over the past five years and I believe this to be a great fit for all parties concerned. I coached Aidan as a 16 year old on our Junior Heat 17U team and thought at that time was that it would be great to see her in a Heat uniform permanently. It took a bit longer than we had hoped for, but we are extremely happy that she is here now,” explains Manuel.
“With the graduation of Katy Klomps and Katie Wuttunee, Aidan will play a large role for us at the middle blocker position, at least in the short term,” continues Manuel. “Aidan has shown her potential also as an outside hitter, we experimented with this in our Junior Heat program and Aidan also saw some time on the outside last season with her NCAA team,” finishes the award winning coach.
Lea had a successful first season with the NCAA division one program playing part time but had several big moments, including a start against the 14th ranked Florida Gators and hitting .429 in an upset of the national contender.
Aidan is coming back to Kelowna and the Heat program to play for a program she was more familiar with and that has a chance to win.
“I chose UBCO because I am excited to have the opportunity to win a championship, in a small tight-knit program, that is close to home and with great academics. Since playing for Steve in high school with the Junior Heat, I have loved his style of coaching and can’t wait to get in the gym with the rest of the team and start training,” says Lea adding that she is also “Excited to be a part of a championship culture that I’ve grown up around, and to have the opportunity to play at the CIS level in my hometown. I hope I can be effective in the middle and help contribute to the Team's success this year.”
Aidan played her high school volleyball at Kelowna Secondary and she was also the team captain of the U17 team that won the provincial championship in 2014. Also on her resume was a bronze medal win at the national cup in 2014 with Team BC, she was also named a first-team all-star as a member of the U15 team that won the provincial championships.
Looking to study International Relations and Political Science when she starts classes in September at UBC Okanagan Aidan will work towards a degree that will utilize her already honed leadership and community experience. In high school Lea was very involved in student leadership and attended the Canadian Student Leadership Conference, Canada’s longest running national student leadership conference three times.
With six players on the 2015 roster leaving the squad due to exhausting eligibility the Heat will replace all six with Lea will joining five other newcomers to the winning program. Along with Lea from the Junior Heat program graduating to the varsity team will be: Quincy Birker (5-10 S/LS, Kelowna), Natalie Livingston (6-1 S/RS, Kelowna-Immaculata), and Sydney McKinlay (5-11 OH, Penticton-Princess Margaret). Sara McCreary (5-10 S, Edmonton-Jasper Place)and Brooklyn Reynolds (6-3 M, Regina-Miller Comprehensive) are the two joining the Heat from outside of BC.
The Heat women's volleyball team will open the Canada West regular season at home on Friday, October 28 at 6 p.m.