Abbotsford – The University of the Fraser Valley women’s volleyball team has added a trio of out-of-province recruits in preparation for the 2018-19 season.
Cascades head coach Mike Gilray’s latest crop of signees included a pair of Albertans – Zoe Flowers (Calgary) and Stephanie Demeules (Chestermere) – along with Sacramento, Calif. product Kate Widman.
The recent additions bring Gilray’s Class of 2018 to five players, joining previously announced recruits Kristen McBride and Alysha Cooper.
“It’s exciting to know that our program is starting to get some out-of-province recognition,” Gilray said. “The quality of the athletes we’ve been able to get is awesome. I think UFV’s educational offerings and our athletic program are making us a destination spot for athletes from other provinces and other countries.”
6’0” outside hitter
C.K. McClatchy High School
Widman, a high-flying outside hitter, had an outstanding senior season with the C.K. McClatchy Lions. She led her squad to the Metro League championship, and was named league MVP.
“She plays on a high-level club down in California, and she has some connections to people in the Fraser Valley,” Gilray said. “We’re excited she’s coming in – she’s a true right side, she’s very talented, and she gives us more depth at that spot.”
Widman spent part of her youth in Canada, and had an interest in returning north of the border to play her post-secondary volleyball.
“When I visited, the team was extremely nice and the campus seemed exactly what I was looking for, which was very uplifting,” said Widman, who plans to enrol in General Studies. “I want to grow more than I have in the past in volleyball and I think UFV can offer that. I am also very excited to take classes in what I am interested in.”
Western Canada High School
Flowers had a much-decorated prep volleyball career. In 2016, she helped Western Canada High School to a silver medal at the Calgary city championships and a fourth-place finish at the provincial championships. As a member of the Alberta provincial team, she helped the squad win a bronze medal at the 2016 National Team Challenge Cup.
She also had a great deal of success in club volleyball with the Junior Dinos; in 2017, she was part of a team which won gold at the U17 provincials and the Best of the West tournament, and finished fifth at the national championships. In 2018, Flowers’s U18 squad won gold at four Alberta Volleyball Association Premier tourneys along with the provincial championship, to go with an additional gold at Best of the West and silver at the BC Volleyball Super Series.
“To be able to bring in a setter the calibre of Zoe is huge,” said Gilray, who was looking to add a setter after Olivia Heinen, last season’s starter, transferred to Trinity Western. “She came out for a visit, and made a commitment on the spot when she was out here. She’s been playing on an elite club with some of the best players in her province for years. Technically, all of the things we’ve been working on with our setters, she’s been coached that way. I think her transition to the next level will be really smooth, and her level of competitiveness is high.”
“I am honoured and excited to become part of the women’s volleyball program at the University of the Fraser Valley,” enthused Flowers, who will pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree. “UFV and Coach Gilray’s program gave me the perfect balance of academia and athletic opportunity that I was seeking. I look forward to taking my game to the next level under his guidance and pursuing a national championship with the Cascade women.”
Chestermere High School
Defensive specialist Demeules starred at Chestermere High – she was named team MVP in 2016 and 2017, and subsequently earned the senior girls athlete of the year award in both 2017 and 2018. She also excelled on the club scene, winning the Crystal Division at AAU nationals in 2016. She brings a multisport background, having won divisional singles titles in badminton each of the past two years.
“One of the things we want to get better at were serve-receive and defence, and Steph is going to bring those things,” Gilray said. “I was able to watch a bunch of her games at nationals this year, and she was really good. She’s very, very competitive, and the club she’s coming from (Canuck Stuff) is doing a lot of things technically that we’ve been training our group in.”
“When I visited Abbotsford during the U14 nationals, I instantly fell in love with the place and knew I wanted to go back there someday,” said Demeules, who will study arts at UFV. “Little did I know I would be continuing my volleyball career in the place it first started. Another thing that helped me feel connected to the school was my grandmother actually worked at UFV for several years as an administrative assistant. I hope that in my time with the Cascades I will be a part of a championship with a great coach and team that will inspire me to excel. I am very excited to be a part of the Cascades this upcoming season and playing volleyball at a high level.”