By Carly McKay
Though the Dinos men’s volleyball team did not fare well in the standings this season, by far the worst loss they face is the departure of fifth-year player Sean Kendal. After a three years with the Dinos, Kendal’s leadership and national-caliber talent will be hard to replace.
While Sean Kendal is the only fifth-year player leaving the team, three more of his teammates have elected to finish off their Dinos careers this season. Starting setter, Glen Handley, and right-side hitters James Brown and Tyler Fraser, have all hung up their jerseys in favour of other pursuits.
After a berth at the national college championships his first varsity season–during which he played in British Columbia at the College of the Rockies–Kendal’s sophomore season was sidetracked by a spinal stress fracture, which confined him to a brace for six months. As testament to his athletic ability, he was able to recover and ultimately turned down several university offers to join the Dinos.
Originally recruited as a right side player, he was forced into a middle hitting position for the majority of his Dinos career due to the team’s injury problems. At “only” 6ïž´4ï›¸, he was one of the shortest middles in CIS, but still earned a nod as a Canada West Second Team all-star in 2004. In his final season, as the only Dino to play in all 60 games, he amassed 168 points, with 123 kills and a team-leading 55 blocks. He was also selected for the World University Games team that competed in Korea in 2003.
“The biggest change [between my rookie year and now] was confidence, mostly from playing with the national team,” he said.
Looking back, Kendal notes that battling back from injury and coming to Calgary to play an unfamiliar position may have hampered his development as a right-side player, but he is looking forward to a bright volleyball future. Having recently signed with an agent, he is considering a pro contract overseas. “Probably in Sweden or Italy,” he speculates, “but I’m not picky at this point.”
Still, leaving the Dinos program will be a bittersweet ending to his varsity career. “I really liked being a student,” he says. “I’ll miss the guys. We had really great team chemistry. [Playing in Calgary] was the time of my life.”
Handley, after spending four years of his eligibility with the Dinos, leaves the team having racked up 501 assists and a whopping 71 digs last season. Earning accolades throughout his post-secondary stint, one TSN personality praised him as “one of the best setters in the CIS right now.”
While leaving the Dinos is a major decision, particularly with just eight courses of a kinesiology degree left, it is a change Handley is philosophical about.
“I live my life with no regrets. I just didn’t like the direction of the program [in Calgary],” he admits. As he looks forward to joining Kendal overseas next year, Handley’s veteran leadership and exceptional court vision will be hard to replace.
For James Brown, retiring is driven more by academic demands. As a third-year chemical engineering major, focusing on a brutal class schedule next year is high on his priority list.
“Not a lot of people are as fortunate to have experienced all that I have,” he so eloquently says. “I’ve learned and grown as a person. I’ll take a year off and do some things I haven’t had the chance to do. Try to regain the drive.” In a year in which he only played 12 sets before being diagnosed with a stress fracture in his femur, Brown was cut short at eight kills and nine digs on the season. After being named to the conference all-rookie team in 2003, he was penciled in to be a major part of the Dinos’ future, and his departure leaves some big shoes to fill (literally)!
Tyler Fraser will also leave quite a gap in the Dinos’ lineup, especially on the defensive side. This past season, the former College of the Rockies Avalanche player contributed an impressive 62 digs, 82 kills, and eight service aces, proving his ability to fit into any role on the team.
His consistent play earned him a regular starting position, and early in the season at the University of British Columbia he recorded the highest kill efficiency in Canada West this year, an accomplishment he is extremely proud of.
“It finally felt like I was playing real CIS volleyball,” he says. Although his CIS career was short-lived, Fraser will be adapting his talents to fit into the role of assistant coach at Mount Royal College in the fall, allowing him the time to change his personal focus toward beach volleyball.
Though all three players pursuing different dreams, they agree that they will miss the camaraderie the most. As Handley notes, “I’ll miss the boys, the locker room. We were all really close.” Brown and Fraser echo the sentiment. “My favourite memory was at the rookie party, when Rob Ellis threw bread at us and said ‘Eat your bread and dance!’” Fraser fondly recalled. Clearly, the bond between teammates is best left unspoken. All the same, the departing players will be missed.