Abbotsford – The University of the Fraser Valley men’s volleyball program has restocked its roster in preparation for another run at the PacWest conference title in 2016-17.
Head coach Kyle Donen has signed six new recruits: Douglas College transfer Matt Whittall (Roberts Creek, B.C.), and five 2016 B.C. high school grads including Josh Fefchak (Abbotsford), Luciano De Gianni (Langley) and Surrey products Ian Lim, Graeme Hughes and Carter Bronson.
“In some ways, it’s a bit of a youth movement,” Donen observed. “I’m really excited about this group. It’s a strong group of personalities, and guys who are motivated to be part of this program. Each guy brings his own set of skills and personality, and I think all of them will be able to contribute in some way to our team. I’m anticipating some great things from them.”
6’3” left side
Elphinstone Secondary (Roberts Creek, B.C.)
Whittall averaged 0.50 points per set of total offence in limited action as a Douglas Royals freshman in 2015-16. He comes with a sparkling high school pedigree – as a senior at Elphinstone Secondary in Gibsons, B.C., he was ranked No. 12 on The Province newspaper’s Super 15 list of B.C.’s top senior boys volleyball players.
“I know he’s excited for the opportunity to contribute in a much bigger way this year, and we’re very fortunate to have a guy of his calibre and experience in our program,” Donen said of Whittall. “He knows a couple of the guys on our team, so I know he’ll fit in very well with our group.”
“I chose UFV for its educational opportunities, location and coaching staff,” said Whittall, who plans to enrol in general studies at UFV. “As a Cascade, I want to enjoy the sport, enjoy being part of a team, and make some unforgettable memories.”
6’0” middle/outside hitter
Mennonite Educational Institute (Abbotsford, B.C.)
Fefchak knows a little something about winning – he was part of four B.C. high school championship squads (two junior, two senior AA) with the MEI Eagles, and lost only three games from Grade 8 to Grade 12 at MEI. He’ll enrol in general studies at UFV.
“He knows what it’s like to be part of a winning program, and any time you can add a kid who brings that mentality, it’s something you want,” Donen said. “He was an avid contributor to those teams, too – he wasn’t just a guy who sat on the bench and watched it happen. I think he’ll be a big contributor for us. The best thing I think he brings is his versatility. He can play on the outside, or in the middle. He’s a bit undersized for a middle, but he knows the position incredibly well, and if he had to be thrown in there, he’d figure it out.”
“I chose UFV to stay within the local community and to start a post-secondary education while staying close to family and friends,” Fefchak said. “I hope that with the Cascades I can grow as a young man while gaining an education and playing a sport I love.”
Luciano De Gianni
Langley Fundamental (Langley, B.C.)
De Gianni helped his Langley Fundamental Titans author a memorable 2015 campaign – they won the silver medal at the B.C. AA high school championships. The towering middle has been part of a strong Fraser Valley Volleyball Club U18 squad this summer, earning a silver medal at club provincials and a fifth-place result at nationals.
“He brings us some good size at the middle position,” Donen said. “I think he’s a kid who’s got all the tools – he just needs to gain a bit of experience and a bit of confidence. His skillset will be very effective for us after he gains that understanding of what it takes to play at this level. He’s definitely a kid who loves the game, wants to know the game better, and asks a lot of questions. I think he’s going to be very effective for us this year.”
“I’m looking forward to becoming a part of the Cascades,” said De Gianni, who will pursue a Bachelor of Science degree at UFV. “I’ve gotten the opportunity to meet the team, and they seem like an outstanding group of players. I look forward to starting my first season with them.”
Johnston Heights Secondary (Surrey, B.C.)
Lim, who plans to study business at UFV, was the MVP of Johnston Heights senior boys volleyball team last season.
“He’s a very hard worker, and I think he’s got a really good sense for the game,” Donen said. “I’m excited to see what kind of versatility and mindset he can bring to the next level. I think he’ll bring some depth at the setter position, and push our older guys to be on their mark.”
“I wanted to continue my studies as well as my volleyball career somewhere close to home,” said Lim, reflecting on why he elected to join the Cascades. “My goal is to improve my skills as a player and help the team to a national championship berth.”
6’4” outside hitter
Elgin Park Secondary (South Surrey, B.C.)
Hughes is a relative newcomer to the game of volleyball, having only started in the sport in Grade 11. One of the highlights of his senior season with the Elgin Park Orcas was earning team MVP honours at the Semiahmoo Secondary tournament.
“I coached him at one point when he was a little younger, and he’s taken huge strides,” Donen said of Hughes. “I think he has the right mentality to take his game to the next level. He’s got some skill which will be transferrable to this level, and I think it’s just a matter of him getting some experience.”
“I chose UFV because they have a great volleyball program, and the team feels like a perfect fit,” said Hughes, who will study arts at UFV. “My goals for my time with the Cascades are to be the best player I can be, and to give it my all on the court.”
6’2” left side
North Surrey Secondary (Surrey, B.C.)
Bronson’s high school didn’t have a senior boys volleyball team either of the past two years, so he’s honed his skills under Donen’s tutelage in the spring and summer with the Orangemen Volleyball Club.
“He’s worked really hard the last two years, playing club volleyball and not high school,” Donen said. “He’s had to start from scratch during club season. The biggest thing for me is, I’m excited to see what he can bring in a whole season, which he basically hasn’t had the last two years. And for a kid who has less experience, he has great leadership ability.”
“UFV has been in my head since my U15 year of volleyball where we took first place at the tournament hosted by the Cascades men,” said Bronson, who will study business at UFV. “Ever since then it has always been a dream to be able to continue my studies while playing the sport I love at a higher level. My goal is to prove to the athletes and coaches that I can be a reliable, strong player to go to.”