Bay Roberts vol­ley­baller en­joys the challenge

The Compass - - SPORTS - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER VOLLEYBALL nmercer@cb­n­com­pass.ca

Bay Roberts teenager Ju­lianna Clarke likes chal­leng­ing her­self, specif­i­cally when it comes to her cho­sen sport of volleyball.

The 15-year-old, who will start at­tend­ing As­cen­sion Col­le­giate this fall, is al­ways test­ing her­self to learn new skills and im­prove her game each time she steps on the floor.

“I like be­ing able to challenge my­self and push my­self,” Clarke told The Com­pass last week.

So when she hits the floor this week for the East­ern Elite Championships July 29-30 in St. John’s, Clarke will fo­cus on im­prov­ing her­self while play­ing against some of the top tal­ent in the At­lantic Provinces.

Ear­lier this year, she found out she had made the un­der15 fe­male team. It’s a se­lec­tion that shows just how fast she’s taken to the game since start­ing four years ago.

Clarke got into volleyball when she was 11 through her aunt, but what’s kept her in it is the challenge the game pre- sents. First, it was to get re­ally good at the basics — things like bump­ing and hit­ting. Then, she started chal­leng­ing her­self to master some of the more ad­vanced tech­niques of the game.

“My first challenge was just com­plet­ing a sim­ple pass,” said Clarke. “It changed ev­ery year. First it was get­ting a pass, then it was learn­ing serves, then it was hit­ting. Now, for me is get­ting a con­sis­tent over­hand serve. That’s the challenge for me now.”

Clarke got started at the East­ern Elites late last week and is in the midst of var­i­ous train­ing camps be­fore the tour­na­ment starts Friday.

“You’re be­ing out up against some of the best play­ers in the prov­ince, and just be­ing in there and know­ing that I’m not the best one there … it makes me want to be bet­ter,” she said. “It makes me want to push my­self even harder to do ev­ery- thing even bet­ter than I al­ready can.”

Se­lec­tion a sur­prise

Clarke wasn’t ex­pected to re­ceive an email from coaches in­form­ing her of her se­lec­tion to the provin­cial team.

Part of it was be­cause — in her eyes — her try­out didn’t go well enough to war­rant her be­ing picked over an­other ath­lete.

So when Clarke re­ceived the cor­re­spon­dence telling her she’d made the cut, it was a bit of a sur­prise.

“I was happy and ex­cited (to get se­lected), but I re­ally wasn’t ex­pect­ing it at all,” she said.

Us­ing her head

Nor­mally, Clarke plays the mid­dle po­si­tion on the court. In that role, she has to have a keen un­der­stand­ing of her op­po­nent’s ten­den­cies of­fen­sively. Her pri­mary role is to shut down their of­fense.

For that, Clarke needs to have an un­der­stand­ing of the game and re­main calm as the game moves 100 miles per hour around her.

“I’m able to de­cide quickly on what I need to do (on the floor),” she said of her calm­ness on the court. “Some­times, that def­i­nitely helps. Some­times, you need to be able to as­sess whether to go in for that block or stay back and play de­fense. You need to be able to watch the per­son hit­ting and be able to de­cide, ‘ Do I need to go left or right?’”

The East­ern Elite tour­na­ment rep­re­sents an op­por­tu­nity to learn from some of the best train­ers and coaches in this prov­ince.

It’s part of the reason Clarke is ex­cited to take part in the event.

“Mostly, it’s go­ing out and get­ting ex­pe­ri­ence and advice from provin­cial coaches, just to keep up­ping my game.”

“I was happy and ex­cited (to get se­lected), but I re­ally wasn’t ex­pect­ing it at all.” - Ju­lianna Clarke

PHOTO BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER/THE COM­PASS

Bay Roberts’ Ju­lianna Clarke is a mem­ber of the prov­ince’s un­der-15 fe­male volleyball team.

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