Want to be a libero in the CIS? The top women’s players in the CIS can hit a volleyball on a spike attempt close to 100 km/h. That’s fast, faster than your car should have gone on Glover Road traveling to the game tonight. Now stand two to three meters away from a woman hitting said volleyball at over 90 km/h straight down at you. Your job is not to fear for your life and curl into the fetal position, but instead to pass this hurtling sphere so that your setter can set up your offense. It’s preferred that you use your forearms in a proper passing technique, but really your elbow, hand, shoulder, or face will do- anything to keep the point alive.
Welcome to what Andrea Ball does every game and every practice for the Trinity Western University Spartans. It’s like target practice except the opposite- the hitter is trying to miss her while she’s doing everything possible to get in the ball’s way, to get it up and make it playable. It’s not for the weak of mind or body, and despite it’s demands, Andrea has gotten really good at it.
“I really like defending,” says the second year Spartan. “I don’t get to score the points, but I like to set up the plays and make sure the ball doesn’t hit the floor.”
Although she was a power hitter since she started playing volleyball in grade five, Andrea saw as she came to the end of her high school career at MEI that at 5’8 she’d be too small to play leftside in the CIS. So it was become a libero, or give up the game.
“It was hard at first realizing I couldn’t be a power anymore, but I still loved playing volleyball,” says the native of Abbotsford, B.C. “I realized that libero is what I’d be best at and I really enjoy it.”
Current Spartans head coach Ryan Hofer was also Andrea’s high school club coach with the Fraser Valley Volleyball Club, and had no doubts she’d make a seamless transition to libero.
“She has a tremendous ability to control the ball,” says Hofer. “She’s grown up in a family that has played a lot of volleyball, and Andrea can pass. When balls come her way she controls them and gets them up in the air so other people can take a whack at them.”
Her passing and defense were so good she made the Canadian Junior National team as a libero the summer before she enrolled at TWU, giving her some great experience to prepare for playing in the CIS. Her first season as a Spartan was spent as a reserve, watching and learning from one of the best libero’s in the country in Julie McLeod. This season was supposed to be more of the same as McLeod, the reigning Canada West Libero of the Year, was a fifth year senior. But when Julie suffered an unfortunate back injury early in the season, suddenly Andrea became a starter on a team chalk full of veterans.
“It was a little hard at first and pretty intimidating,” she says of jumping into Julie’s spot, and having to direct the older players on serve receive and back row positioning. “It’s been really great playing under Julie because she’s been so good, and she gives me a lot of feedback.”
Coach Hofer has certainly been pleased with her performance.
“This year has been tremendous for Andrea as she’s taken some big steps,” Hofer says of her transition from reserve to starter. “She came in kind of quiet, but she’s slowly realizing what she needs to do in order to be the quarterback in that position. She doesn’t have to control the whole court. She has to make sure that she’s in charge of serve receive, and work together with the other girls that are back there. She’s more vocal, she’s talking a lot more, and she’s doing a good job.”
As the Spartans battle for playoff positioning, they’ll continue to count on Andrea to stand in harms way and keep the play alive. Remember that as you watch her defend during the game, and as you drive your car home afterwards slower than the volleyballs she stood in front of and passed with seaming ease. That’s what it takes to play libero in the CIS.
Last Updated: 2008-07-15
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