When watching the Gulf Islands Secondary School Scorpions play, the first things that may stand out are their crisp passing, vocal celebrations and support of one and other. But upon second glance, you may notice a fearless and smiley, five-foot libero as the backbone of this talented team.
Yugo Uemaru arrived at the school last year from Tokyo, Japan as part of the schools international student program and began playing on the Junior Boys team. This year he is part of the Senior Boys Team and listed at an even five-feet tall – four inches shorter than any other player in the Big Kahuna BC Volleyball Championships program.
“When I started, I had no idea what volleyball was, but my coach last year asked me to be the libero because I was quick and I’m good at taking the ball,” Uemara said grinning ear-to-ear. “My favourite part is finding the players who hit really hard and digging the ball on them.”
And while digging the ball on a players who measure in at nearly a foot-and-a-half taller than Uemara may seem like a tall task that many would find intimidating, he doesn’t see view it that way.
“Volleyball has no physical contact, so I just need to concentrate on hitting the ball,” Uemara said. “I watch the ball and take the ball.”
Coach Kellie Booth is in her 26th season coaching at the school calls Uemara the heart and soul of the team.
“He never gives up and he is a student of the game,” said Booth, who is looking to improve upon the schools best finish at Provincials (fifth, 2014) this weekend. “He supports all the big guys, they know that and they let him know that too.”
After winning the Islands a few weeks back, the Scorpions come in the No. 9 seed on the AA Boys side of the draw. A seeding that Booth thinks may be a bit low, but understands why they are seeded where they are.
The majority of the team has been playing together since Grade 9, with the occasional player being added to the team this season.
“We found a fella in the library who was tall and had never really played sports, so we invited him to come out and give it a try,” Said Booth “It’s taken us a little bit of time, but I feel we’re peaking at the right time of the season and we’re pretty happy with where we are right now.”
Another player the Scorpions will rely heavily on is Team BC player, Logan Wenzel.
Wenzel plays his club volleyball out of Victoria and regularly commutes via ferry and multiple buses during the club volleyball season (January-April).
“It’s like two hours to commute to practice and 2 hours back,” Wenzel said. “Occasionally I’d have to spend the night and it can be challenging, but it’s definitely worth it.”
The six-foot-one, Grade 11 student is excited for the chance to play against the friends he made over the summer and feels a medal is a real possibility if the team plays well.
“I’m so excited to have a chance to play the top schools in BC,” Wenzel said with a big smile on his face. “One because I have some friends on some of the teams, but two, because there is going to be so much hype around the games.”
Gulf Islands Secondary School finished Day 1 of the tournament with a perfect 3-0 record in Pool C.
Past graduates from the school include, Casey Knight (TRU) and Chris Howe (UBC)
Day 1 results in AA High School Boys can be found HERE.