Seventeen-year-old Ashleigh Wolensky of Redvers has taken her championship-level volleyball skills to a new school and is embracing new challenges and opportunities as a Caronport High School student and as a member of Briercrest's club-level volleyball team. Wolensky hopes that her performance at the Team Saskatchewan tryouts later this spring will net her a spot on the provincial team, which will allow her to compete at the Canada Games this summer in Winnipeg.
“Competing as part of Team Saskatchewan (in 2016) was so inspiring,” she says. “The people on my team were so good that it forces you to be better.”
Wolensky's first experience competing at the national level as a member of Team Saskatchewan was at Richmond, B.C.'s Olympic Oval., at the National Team Challenge Cup. Then a student in Bellegarde, she was part of Team Saskatchewan's 18U squad.
“In 2016, it was such a relief to make the team,” she says. “I was really concerned and anxious, because there were so many good athletes at the tryouts in Regina. The coaches watched our passing, serving, hitting, everything. They were looking at our skills and our work ethic.”
“I honestly didn't know how I'd do, but I did my best and I was really surprised and happy when I made the (provincial) team.”
“My team came 6th in Richmond and it was a week where I learned a lot,” she says. “It was so much fun playing teams at that level and it forced me to be a better player. I feel like I've come a long way as a player and as a player and a person, it really raised my confidence.”
Now attending Caronport High School, Wolensky says life as a boarder makes combining school and sports easier. “It's easy to do both here. It's a really small town and a lot of other people do volleyball (here) and so it's easy to focus on both.”
“I'm playing on new teams, but on the Briercrest (club) team, a lot of the girls played on Team Sask when I did. And a lot of them also play on the school team and like me, a lot of them are from out of town, so it's not like I'm the only new person or player.”
“Wherever I've played, my coaches have supported me and played a big role in who I am as a player,” says Wolensky. “When I played for the (Southeast) Vipers, my coach Kelly Running told me I lacked confidence in my abilities and she really encouraged me. And when I first tried out for Team Sask – which led me to playing at the national level in Richmond – (coach) Eugene Brown talked them into letting me try out for the 18U team, even though I was only 16. The way my birthday fell, they said I was too old to try out for the 16U team.”
“But I made it. I got the opportunity to try out for the 18U team after not being able to try out for the 16U team and I did my best,” she says. “I was really surprised and happy when I found out I'd made the provincial team and it's something I hope to do again.”
“I started playing volleyball in grade five in Bellegarde,” says Wolensky. “I only started playing club season in 2015. Volleyball has made me feel more confident as a person, more outgoing and closer to my teammates and a better communicator.”
“The first time I competed at an Olympic venue in Calgary, I thought: 'This is awesome and I want to live up to this,'” she says.
“It would be such a great opportunity to play for Team Saskatchewan at the Canada Games. And I'll do my best to make that happen.”