Spotted : Dan Dearing Makes Challenger Series Debut

He's back! A welcome surprise on the courts last month, Dan Dearing competed at Challenger Series No. 2 for the first time since a career limiting lower back injury in 2015.

An incredible athlete, Dan dominated on both the indoor and beach volleyball court. No stranger to injury, he worked his way back on the court after a 2 year recovery from a patella tendon tear, to finish his final years at York as a Libero (2012) and Right Side (2013), before making a mark on the beach.

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Dan competed for 6 years for our Men's Beach National Team, 3 of which he was competing professionally to fulfil his Olympic aspirations. His accolades speak for themselves, Dan alongside beach partner Garrett May, were the 3rd highest ranked pairing for Team Canada and finished as high as 5th internationally on the FIVB World Tour in South Africa. Not to mention finishing 1st, 2nd and 3rd in Norceca Events, and winning Beach Nationals in 2014. 

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A devastating lower back injury in Qatar in November 2015 forced Dan to step away from competition for two full years. But his passion for the sport couldn't keep him away from the courts, driven to give back and impact youth through mentoring and coaching. An integral part of Unity Sports Volleyball Club, he currently coaches full time; Head Coaching both Indoor Rep and House League Academies, along with being the Technical Director of Beach Volleyball for Unity. And that's not all, Dan also created IBELIEVE, a campaign to give back to his community in Rexdale/Etobicoke where he grew up throughout his youth and teenage years.

A lot was given to me through guidance, mentorship and opportunity and it is my opportunity to do so now. All funds raised go directly to athletes and families in Rexdale to help direct them in life through the avenue of sport.
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Though his Olympic aspirations have changed, Dan is excited to continuing inspiring and coaching as much as possible, and playing whenever he can in events within North America, Central America and the Caribbean. You can catch him competing at the Challenger Series events throughout the year, and rumour has it you may even get to see him in action this summer, competing in the 2018 Toronto Premier League! 

Fun fact : Dan "loooovvveee(s) bake goods, especially chocolate crossaints!!"

Featured Challenger Series Competitor: Myriam Hallé

For Myriam Hallé, her journey with volleyball happened a bit differently than most, but her passion and love for the sport is just as great as any. 


Club: Les Vipères des Laurentides
College: Les Nordiques, Lionel-Groulx
University: University of Montréal


Hallé's volleyball resume is filled with accolades from both indoor and beach volleyball, including 2 RSEQ titles with the University of Montréal and both a silver and gold medalist at the 2011 and 2014 Beach National Championships, respectively.

Hallé played volleyball all through high school and club like most, and she also played College for Lionel-Groulx before being recruited to the University of Montréal. "The coach saw me play libero during my last collegial year and asked me to attend the training camp because he liked my energy on the court," she says. 

Hallé eagerly accepted a position on the squad but after only a few weeks of training with the team, both setters got injured. "I was asked to learn to set and I never played as a setter in my years of volleyball before University," she says. "On my first practice I was asked to jump set and do fast plays. I'd say I had to learn quickly!"

Hallé continued to set for the team for 3 years before stepping back from volleyball to pursue her career in Pharmaceuticals. Not able to ignore her love for the game for very long, she joined the Celtiques Senior Team to keep playing at a high level, and started coaching with Olivier Trudel at the University of Montréal. "I felt that 3 years as a player were not enough for me and I still had a lot the give to the team," she says. 

With the Celtiques she trains once a week, and at first it was a bit of a shock adjusting to the post-competitive volleyball life she once had. "The environment is very different. We're self-coached and play on Tuesdays after a day of working. It's a good way to continue to play my sport at a good level and having a good time with my friends," she states. "We love doing tournaments organized by ONE Volleyball to bring us competition as there is not a lot of tournament we can do around Montreal."

Aside from her time with the Celtiques and her life as a Pharmacist, which she loves, Hallé is taking Pharmacy Management classes to buy her own Pharmacy one day. And since coffee is one of her favourite things, it's likely that you can find her sitting in a remote coffee shop in Montréal-Nord, sipping a hot cup of Joe and studying for her future career goals.

Hallé claims its her work ethic that gives her the drive to pursue new avenues of her career, but that comes from all her years spent on the court. "Everything I learn in sport is helping me a lot in my career right now," she says. "Whoever is on the other side of the net won't intimidate me and that relates in my life too."

You can catch Myriam Hallé and the Celtiques January 6-7, 2018 at the 1st Challenger Series Invitational

Featured Challenger Series Competitor: Reed May

Reed May makes his debut at Challenger Series Event


Name: Reed May
Club: CRUSH Volleyball Club 13U - 18U
University: University of Alberta Golden Bears 2012-2017


Reed May - libero - Alberta Golden Bears

Reed May - libero - Alberta Golden Bears

A former University of Alberta standout libero, Reed May is eager to tie up his laces again with Eastern Blocks for the 1st Annual Challenger Invitational this coming weekend at the Markham Pan Am Centre.

May comes from a family with a rich volleyball history. His father, John May, was a former volleyball standout at the University of Toronto and has been involved with beach volleyball at both the FIVB and Olympic Games. His brother, Garrett May, played for Western University and competes for Canada on the FIVB beach tour. In fact, it's not often that siblings get to face off against each other but Reed and Garrett have, during the 2014 CIS National Championships final, with Reed coming out on top.

I think it's safe to say that when May stepped foot on the court for the first time, he was going to become a great player. His father established CRUSH Volleyball Club and May was a dominant player for them from 13U to 18U, winning 7 National Championships. From there, May moved to Edmonton to play for the University of Alberta on one of the best teams in the country. He finished his University career in March 2017 with 4 National Championship medals, including back to back gold medals.

Reed May - libero - Alberta Golden Bears

Reed May - libero - Alberta Golden Bears

It's always tough going from training every day to what can seem like a perpetual silence following your University career. Returning home to Toronto for the summer, May joined forces with his father as one of the owners of a men's team in the Toronto Premier League. "My first reaction when my father told me he was buying a team in the ONE Volleyball Premier league was pure excitement!" May says, "I had heard about the draft through former teammates and noticed one of the teams didn't have an owner yet. I was just about to call my dad and suggest he get involved when he walked into the office and told me he had bought the team!"

"When I was presented with the opportunity to get involved at an ownership level I was very excited because I love being around high level volleyball on a regular basis even if I’m not able to get out and play every day," May says.

Knowing he has big shoes to fill, he seemed both eager and honoured to start this adventure with his father, "Being in volleyball environments with him, I see how big of an impact he’s had on the community by the sheer number of people he stops and chats with at the events. I can see the respect people have for him in the community and how much value his perspective has. I would consider myself very lucky if I had even a fraction of the impact on the community that he has over his many years in the sport."

With a bit of time yet to plan for the upcoming 2018 Toronto Premier League season, May hopes to help his team win their first Challenger Series Title, "I’m always looking for opportunities to get back out on the court and compete. It’s in my DNA."

University of Alberta Golden Bears at the 2014 CIS Men's National Volleyball Championships

University of Alberta Golden Bears at the 2014 CIS Men's National Volleyball Championships


Emily Betteridge signs first professional contract in Denmark

The list of Canadian athletes competing abroad keeps growing with Emily Betteridge signing her first professional contract with Brøndby Volleyball Klub in Denmark!

Betteridge played her final three years of varsity for the Ryerson Rams

A former Team Ontario athlete, Emily started her ascent to pro ball at Syracuse University and finished her varsity run at Ryerson University where she was a 2nd-team OUA All-Star in her final year. She joined the ONE Volleyball Premier League in 2017, competing for Unity Volleyball, to take advantage of the extra training time over the summer while she looked to fulfill her goal of playing volleyball overseas professionally.

Finding a contract is not a simple process. While most athletes start their seasons early September, Betteridge was still looking for the right contract by this time, "I think I learned some valuable lessons in the time it took to get here. It's reminded me that you can't control the timing of your life, but you can control your attitude and your work ethic," she says. 

Betteridge competed in ONE Volleyball Challenger Series events

After competing with other pro athletes during the summer she knew that was the level she wanted, and could be playing at, she just needed to be patient. 

Fellow Premier League athlete and Premier Cup Champion Asli Ersozoglu landed her first contract earlier in the summer with Brøndby Volleyball Klub, and when her team started looking for a new setter she immediately recommended Betteridge. An opportunity came up to travel to Denmark to train with the team and see if it was the right fit, and Betteridge jumped on the chance to start her dream.

"I'd been working toward the goal of playing overseas for a while, so having the opportunity to go to Copenhagen was more than exciting. I went to Denmark on a trial and got to experience the volleyball and the life for a week before signing. While that certainly came with some pressures, it allowed me to completely embrace the experience, take every day as it came, and both challenge myself and prove to myself, that I deserved to be here," she says. 

Betteridge competing for Unity Volleyball in the 2017 Premier League

Betteridge joins Brøndby mid-season with a record of 18-3, and they sit in 1st place in the VolleyLigaen Damer League. 

Follow Asli and Emily on their pro journey in Denmark on our Athletes Abroad page!

American couple join forces with Canucks for first Challenger Event

Stephanie Champine is no stranger to the Challenger Series, her American team PVL team 'Lakeshore Surge' competed in the 2nd Challenger Event last year, finishing second to Galaxy Prime. Now she's back, joining the new Unity Reign team for the first Challenger Event of the season. Fellow American [and boyfriend] Shaun Dryden has joined her this time, teaming up with the 'Goon Squad'. This dynamic duo is a power couple in the American volleyball world, and we love that they've decided to head north to spike our competition.


Stephanie Champine
College: Junior College at Owens
College: D1 Austin Peay in Tennessee
PVL Team: Lakeshore Surge
Loves: dogs - "I have puppy fever!"

Shaun Dryden
College: LA Pierce
University: Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne
PVL Team: Team Pineapple


Stephanie Champine was looking for a right side in a tournament down south when someone recommended Stephanie Neville. "I absolutely loved her playing style and personality so I started picking her up for more tournaments. Then she started inviting me out to tournaments her way," Champine says. "I love meeting and playing with or against new people so I'm always excited to get picked up for new tournaments. Being able to drive just 6 hours to play in a different country is pretty awesome."

Champine was recently inducted as a part of her team into her high school Hall of Fame, where her jersey is retired. But coming out of high school, she wasn't sure she wanted to play anymore. "My high school coach didn't believe in me at all," she says. "She told me I wasn't going to play in college."

She decided not to pursue college until she was suddenly approached with a full ride from Owens. "[It was the] best decision of my life - my love and passion for the sport just took off. I wanted to play every day, as much as I could and I started getting better and better."

Champine went on to be an All-American for 2 years at Owens, and an All-American another 2 years at Austin Peay - a Division 1 college in Tennessee - and is a testament to how successful you can be in volleyball at any age. "I was a late bloomer. I was super lucky to have awesome college coaches who knew how to push me in the way I needed to be pushed. I wouldn't have gotten anywhere in volleyball without them," she says. "I also wouldn't have met my better half!"

Shaun Dryden decided to give volleyball a try in grade 9, and ended up dropping every other sport the next year to focus on volleyball. "I kept improving and my love for the game grew at the same time. I have not looked back since," he says.

After his time at LA Pierce College and IPFW (Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne), he joined one of the top PVL teams, Team Pineapple, started by former National Team setter and Olympian Lloy Ball. "We have been competing in the top tournaments in the USAV Open Championships, and won the 2015 and 2016 Championships back to back."

In 2017, Team Pineapple lost to the California Blizzard's who picked up Premier League athlete Ray Szeto. "I hate to lose period," Dryden says, "Any loss that I have sticks with me, and I try to learn from it so the mistakes don't happen again."

Stephanie and Shaun were introduced at the Doble (PVL touranment in Michigan that Canadian's frequent every year), in 2015 but had more time to get to know each other at the USAV National Championships later that year. "He continued to keep in touch with me even though he was living two hours away," Champine says. "We made plans to hang out a few weeks later and the rest is history!"

You can catch this All-American couple at the first Challenger Series event presented by Neighburr - Saturday, October 21st, 2017 at the Scarborough Pan Am Centre.



About: the PVL is the American Premier Volleyball League - a collection of tournaments you can play to quality for the USA National Volleyball Championships that boasts a $40,000 purse - $10,000 1st, $6,500 2nd and $3,500 3rd for both men and women. The League unfortunately folded last year, but the teams remain in competition in various tournaments in order to compete at the National Championships in May.

Premier League Athletes Kick Off Their Professional Seasons

It's back to school already, and while many of us our preparing for Club Tryouts and getting back into the work routine, others have made the trek overseas to train for the beginning of the Professional Season in Europe!

We were so thrilled to have an amazing group of talented athletes compete in the inaugural season of the Premier League, and join us in supporting the growth of post-secondary volleyball in Canada. It was amazing to see the impact this season had for our Canadian Professionals, who joined us between seasons in Europe, and for the next generations of outstanding talent. Not only were many young athletes inspired by competing amongst some of our top Canadians, the League also provided a perfect training platform and mentoring opportunity for those already competing in Europe.

Erik Mattson wowed the crowd week after week with his amazing defensive abilities. Click to view this crazy rally from the Premier League on instagram.

Erik Mattson wowed the crowd week after week with his amazing defensive abilities. Click to view this crazy rally from the Premier League on instagram.

"The Premier League was great to train and compete during the off season at a relatively low volume. Being able to get reps twice a week allowed me to stay in game form and not let too much rust set in before heading back overseas. I'm excited to see how the league grows in the following years and contributes to the growth of volleyball in not only Toronto but the rest of the country as well." - Erik Mattson

Along with the 8 Premier League athletes heading back overseas for another season, we are excited to follow 6 new athletes who are preparing for their first seasons competing in Europe. We can only hope that the Premier League continues to inspire athletes to follow their dreams and continue competing in this sport that we love!

Alsi Ersozoglu

Alsi Ersozoglu

"Meeting and playing with a whole new group of athletes, who had been playing overseas in the previous years, inspired me to look for a contract. It has always been my dream but never really my plan, and participating in this league both helped me find the joy in the game again, after a long (and disappointing) varsity season, and connected me to people who could guide me on how to find a team overseas." - Asli Ersozoglu

We can't wait to follow the journey of these 14 athletes this season. Check out their bio below, and follow us on facebook to stay up-to-date on our Canadians! 

Uchenna Ofaha (middle) plays his first season overseas, and Jori Mantha (hitting) is playing his second.

Uchenna Ofaha (middle) plays his first season overseas, and Jori Mantha (hitting) is playing his second.


Returning Overseas

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Name: Steve Hunt
Position: Outside Hitter
2017/2018 Club: Saint Nazaire, France
Experience: 6th Professional Season, University of Hawaii
Premier League Highlights: Male MVP, top 3 on the leaderboard in Points, Serve, Dig and Receive
Follow: @stuntinaroundtheworld

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Name: Erik Mattson
Position: Libero
2017/2018 Club: Abiant Lycurgus, Netherlands
Premier League Highlights: Best Male Libero
Experience: 5th Professional Season, University of Alberta
Follow: @erik_mattson5

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Name: Taylor Brisebois
Position: Middle
2017/2018 Club: Volleyball Club Offenburg, Germany
Experience: Second Professional Season, McMaster University
Follow: @taybrisebois

Name: Jori Mantha
Position: Outside Hitter
2017/2018 Club: OK Hoče, Slovenia
Experience: 2nd Professional Season, McMaster University
Follow: @jorimantha

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Name: Ray Szeto
Position: Outside Hitter
2017/2018 Club: SVG Lüneburg Germany
Experience: 2nd Professional Season, York University
Follow@ray871

Name: Julie Mota
Position: Outside Hitter
2017/2018 Club: Degerfors Orion, Sweden
Experience: 9th Professional Season, Georgian College & Humber College
Follow: @juliemota12

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Name: Taylor Hunt
Position: Outside Hitter
2017/2018 Club: Pafiakos, Cyprus
Experience: 5th Professional Season, University of Alberta
Follow: @tayhunt5

Name: Andre Brown
Position: Middle
2017/2018 Club: Rovaniemi, Finland
Experience: 3rd Professional Season, Humber College
Follow: @andre_brown_18


First Professional Seasons

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Name: Alex Duncan-Thibealt
Position: Outside Hitter
2017/2018 Club: Sora, Italy
Experience: First Professional Season, York University
Follow: @alexduncanvball

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Name: Aleksa Miladinovic
Position: Setter
2017/2018 Club: Sodertelge, Sweden
Experience: First Professional Season, Ryerson University & University of Toronto
Premier League Highlights: Best Male Setter
Follow: @aleksa_miladinovic9
 

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Name: Patrick Strzalkowski
Position: Outside Hitter
2017/2018 Club: VC Gotha, Germany
Experience: 1st Professional Season, University of Guelph
Follow: @patty_straz

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Name: Asli Ersozoglu
Position: Libero
2017/2018 Club: Brondby, denmark
Experience: 1st Professional Season, University of Toronto
Follow: @aslersoz

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Name: Stefan Ristic
Position: Outside Hitter
2017/2018 Club: Chemie Volley Mittledeutschland, Germany
Experience: 1st Professional Season, Ryerson University
Follow: @stefrista

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Name: Uchenna Ofoha
Position: Middle
2017/2018 Club: Kokkolan Tiikerit, Finland
Experience: 1st Professional Season, Ryerson University
Follow: @_uch