Sam Elgert

Two members of the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack men’s volleyball team have been selected to play for Canada’s Youth team in July.

Recruits Sam Elgert (setter, Athabasca, AB) and Evan Yakymishen (middle, Sherwood Park, AB) are two of 28 athletes who have been chosen to represent the country at an international event in late July.

The team was selected following the National Club Volleyball tournament held in Edmonton, Alberta earlier this month. Both Elgert and Yakymishen were members of the Edmonton U-18 FOG who placed fourth in the event

“It’s pretty special to be able to play alongside with Sam for two years in club, now with Team Canada and soon with the WolfPack,’ says Yakymishen. “It’s unbelievable and can’t wait for it to start.”

“I knew I was going to have a busy summer whether I made the team or not,” added Elgert. “I just went out and played my best during Nationals. I think this is a great way to finish our club careers, especially for Evan who made such a leap in his play the past year.”

The two were coached in club the past two club years by Elgert’s father Greg, a former University of Alberta Golden Bear.  “As coaches, our primary goal is to see our players succeed athletically and academically as they move forward in their lives. To have three players from our team make the youth national program (the other was Grayden Wiebe of Sherwood Park, AB) was an indicator that our focus on player development was successful. For Sam and Evan, we are excited that they were recognized on their current abilities and their potential to be national team players in the future.”

Coach Elgert said both WolfPack recruits had strong club campaigns, “For Sam, he continue on his path of strong play from the last year. He worked hard to get strong physically and matured in his setting performance, both tactically and with his consistency. He showed that he is a big game performer who was able to raise his level of play when the stakes were the highest both at provincials and nationals. Evan has had more of a meteoric rise in his development, going from our third middle blocker last year to being a starter early this year, to becoming a dominant force in the middle by the end of the season.”

Thompson Rivers coach Pat Hennelly is happy for his two newcomers, “Being recognized as being two of the best players in the country is certainly a big achievement. The fact they get a full week of extra training is always great.  Obviously as a player you want to step up your play as you represent your country.”

Hennelly goes onto say about Elgert and Yakymishen, “I was very confident before his selection that Sam was one of the top guys in the country when we recruited him. This is kind of an affirmation of that. I really liked the way he played at nationals. I am obviously biased but I thought he was the best setter there.  He did a good job of getting his team deep in the tourney and getting the most out of his teammates.  Evan has not only physically grown (Hennelly estimates as much as two inches-now 6’6”) since we recruited him.  That FOG team, and Elgert the coach did an exceptional job of moving him along. He is quite a bit better than when we saw him during the high school season. During the club season, he improved dramatically.  I think it was a surprise to him and certainly it was to me. When I saw him at the national tournament, I was shocked by his improvement and how well he played.  That is exciting when you get a guy who is constantly improving before he gets here. It is a testament to that FOG club program. Sam’s Dad, Greg did a wonderful job with those two players along with Ryan Adams (a third FOG player who will attend Thompson Rivers this fall).”

Yakymishen feels the chemistry he has with Sam Elgert should pay dividends for both with the Youth squad. “That will help us immensely,” he stated. “Having someone who you have played alongside with for two years already is huge. Having that on court chemistry will benefit both us and the team greatly.”

Coach Elgert agrees the relationship between Sam and Evan is invaluable. “The chemistry between middles and setters is one of the most difficult to develop. The relationship these two have will give them a leg up for the program’s short training and competition duration.”

The national youth team will train July 14-21st at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta. That is the home court of the co-coach of the youth team Sean Sky.   They will then go to the USA Volleyball High Performance Championships in Tulsa, Oklahoma July 23-28th.   This year is the first in four seasons that Volleyball Canada has reinstated the youth team concept.  According to Hennelly, the roster was expanded to get more players involved.

Both players feel this experience will benefit them going into their first season in USPORTS with Thompson Rivers.  “It will be nice to get a different high level coaching experience,” said Elgert, who will be working with WolfPack alumna and former assistant/interim head coach Mike Hawkins with the youth team.

The last Thompson Rivers player to play on Canada’s youth team was Gord Perrin (Creston, BC).  Perrin now plays professionally in China and is the current captain of Canada’s senior men’s national team.

Yakymishen and Elgert’s future teammate, Landon Currie (libero, Vernon, BC) is also representing Canada this summer. He is a member of Canada’s junior national men’s team.

SIDEOUTS:  Coach Elgert on working with the two future WolfPack student-athletes, “It was a pleasure to coach both of them. Both were hard workers with high standards for their own performance with a desire to improve and learn. For Sam, it was great to see him take over the reins of our team and become a strong leader over the past two years. For Evan, it was satisfying to see him develop from a raw high school athlete to a player worthy of being on the youth national team. Both players have a lot to learn and I am confident Thompson Rivers and Coach Hennelly will continue them on the path of excellence.”

Hennelly on Hawkins working with Elgert on the Youth National team, “Knowing Sam and the way he is on the court and around people, he is very respectful. I think he will actually work quite well with Mike (knowing his personality as well). I am all for as many people and coaches giving opinions and guys deciding what works for them. Obviously, Sam has gotten himself to this level but he is open to listening and trying new things. He is a kid who is striving to be his best. That’s what it takes at this level (USPORTS) to be successful. You have to be dedicated to improving every day. Gord Perrin, Brad Gunter (Courtenay, BC), Colin Carson (Prince George, BC)—you can name the guy—they dramatically improved.  That is the key to success at this level.  We (USPORTS coaches) are all recruiting stars from club teams, provincial teams. They all have the physical capabilities to play. Now, it is mental: the work ethic and the ability to change what needs to be changed is the key to success at this level.”