UBC Thunderbirds outside hitter Anna Price
hits a kill past the MacEwan University Griffins during U Sports Canada
West volleyball action at the University of B.C. in 2017.
by J.J. Adams, Vancouver Sun/Province
She gained a mysterious inch on her height between
her first season with the UBC Thunderbirds volleyball team, but the
story about Anna Price’s evolution isn’t about becoming bigger, stronger
It’s about becoming smarter.
As an unheralded
rookie, Price spent most of her time in street clothes, struggling to
find her mojo and role with the team. Fast-forward 4 1/2 years, and
she’s the undisputed team leader and one of the Thunderbirds’ primary
offensive weapons — even if she isn’t the biggest, strongest or fastest.
first year, I struggled a lot with confidence,” said the 5-foot-10 —
that height is official now — outside hitter from North Vancouver who
had a match-high nine kills and 11 digs in last week’s season-opening
sweep of the Winnipeg Wesmen at the Duckworth Centre. “It’s tough coming
in as a smaller outside hitter, on a team that historically has been
successful at breeding Olympic players, national team players. I
struggled a little bit feeling that I deserved to be on a team that was
so high-calibre. But I’ve grown in learning to exploit the
strengths that I do have, rather than trying to compare myself to
others. I worked on trying to be more of a crafty, smart hitter, rather
than a big-jumping, pounding-the-ball type hitter. That was never who I
was going to be.”“This
is a player … who didn’t start for (her club team) out of high school. I
don’t think we’ve had a player in our program who wasn’t at least a
starting player,” said University of B.C. coach Doug Reimer. “Yet, she
has consistently — in whatever role is asked — been clutch. She’s raised
her game at key times. Her mental toughness, her strength, is very
high. She’s not that big physically, she’s not that tall, but she brings
other assets. Her service reception, she passes the ball extremely
well, she finds ways to get kills … even if it’s not with overwhelming
power or height.
“For all the smaller power hitters in high school, they should watch Anna.”
week’s win, their first regular-season action since capturing the 2018 U
Sports title, had the Thunderbirds check in at No. 2 in the national
rankings. And much like that missing inch on Price’s height, the numbers
are a bit misleading.
UBC had zero starters from last year’s
championship team on the court against Winnipeg, with the departed
including finals MVP and U Sports female athlete of the year Kiera Van
Ryk (turned pro in Italy), captain Victoria Behie, Ciara Hanly and
Samantha Patko, all whom graduated. They were further depleted by the
absence of Jayde Robertsen, the outside/middle hitter who transferred to
UBC from Eastern Washington last season, to a concussion suffered in
“(The ranking) bears nothing to what people would actually think,” said Reimer. “Start with zero, and hover right there.”
Reimer’s squad already proved it doesn’t put much stock in rankings.
Checking in at No. 8 before last year’s nationals, a team with seven
rookies made it all the way to the final, where they fought back from a
two-set hole to upset the defending-champion Ryerson Rams. It was the
second title in three years for UBC, giving them 12 total — more than
any other U Sports program.
“I’ve been really pleased with how the
group has handled the challenge,” Reimer said of the new season. “We
have a lot of players new to the program a year ago, and players coming
back from injury, they’ve all embraced that. There are certain pieces
you can’t obviously replace, but I can’t ask for more than how the team
is responding right now.”
Price has played a big part in that as
one of just two fifth-year players on the team, taking up the leadership
mantle vacated by some of the most successful players in team history.
her role as a spectator for much of her first season, to her Willis
Reed role of 2018 — where she came back from an injury that saw her tear
six ligaments in her ankle — the Argyle Pipers grad has provided a
“I have to admit I was a little bit nervous
coming into the year, but I honestly have such a great group of younger
players. It’s been a lot less pressure than I originally expected. It’s
been a lot of fun, and an easier transition than I could have asked
for,” she said. “We spent a lot of time last year building on team
culture, since half of our team last year were rookies. It’s going to be
a different sort of team culture building in that we’re … a lot more
raw talent, but definitely still a lot of talent. It’s just going to be
building that confidence and experience so those players feel like they
deserve their spot on the court.
“We’re not lacking in talent … so I’m excited to see where this year takes us.”
it’s another road trip — this time to Saskatoon to face the Huskies
(2-0) this Friday and Saturday, before UBC (2-0) returns home Nov. 1 and
2 to host the Mount Royal Cougars, the same night they’ll raise their
2019 national championship banner to the War Memorial Gym rafters.