University of Alberta volleyball teams enjoy success with international players

Alberta Golden Bears volleyballer Chris Morrow has already been through it. He’s not a fan.

His teammate and countryman Alex McMullin doesn’t need the experience to know it’s not something to look forward to.

Then there’s Josey Doerfler, a recent addition to the Alberta Pandas and one of the top newcomers to Canadian university volleyball this fall.

The German loves Edmonton. Her team, her coaches, even practice, pretty much everything.

Well, almost.

“It’s a little too cold for me, already I know,” she laughs, her good humour nearly masking the dread. “People keep telling me it’s getting worse, I’m like, ‘Oh no.’ ”

Doerfler and Australians McMullin and Morrow comprise the U of A’s international volleyball contingent, a talented trio that are fitting in rather well and their respective teams, who are both ranked No. 1 in the CIS as they prepare to host the MacEwan Griffins for Canada West competition on Friday and Saturday.

“It’s everything I wanted coming over here,” said Morrow, a 21-year-old Sydney native. “We’ll go through winds and cold weather and snow and all that sort of thing. As long as we get to come play we’re going to be happy.”

Morrow, a 21-year-old Sydney native, was the first of the foreigners to move to Edmonton, arriving last year when he was part of the Golden Bears fifth national championship win under coach Terry Danyluk. McMullin has already appeared in five matches and 14 sets this season for the Bears, who are off to an 8-0 start in Canada West play, and Doerfler has made a massive impact for the Pandas, who are 6-2 in regular season play and tied with Laval atop the national rankings.

The 27-year-old from Potsdam, who has nearly a decade of professional volleyball experience in her native country, leads the country in aces and ranks among the top 20 in kills.

“I think she’s really excited about being in Canada,” said Pandas coach Laurie Eisler. “Often with those older athletes they’re sort of done, there’s not a lot of energy there, but she’s really enthused.”

Danyluk recruited the duo from Down Under via a connection with Australian national team coach Jon Uriarte, with whom he has had a longstanding relationship.

“At the moment it’s been awesome,” said the 19-year-old McMullin, who calls Brisbane home. “It’s been two months since I’ve arrived and it’s been probably one of the best two months personally and volleyball-wise that I’ve ever (had).”

Eisler was approached by Doerfler, who had heard about the seven-time CIS championship-winning coach and her wildly successful program through Canadian teammates on her professional team. Doerfler was looking for somewhere that she could play volleyball at a high level while pursuing a Master’s Degree in political science, and found the U of A offered a balance study and sport unlike anywhere in Germany. Likewise, education was a big attraction for Morrow and McMullin.

“The most important thing for me is that both Chris and Alex are students and they both wanted to study in our faculty of Physical Education, and so it was a great fit,” said Danyluk. “They weren’t just volleyball players, they were guys who wanted to excel in the classroom room, and to get to volleyball training.”

Morrow fully admits he’s missing the beaches, the 40-something temperatures, and “sitting by the pool with a bar-b,” but the experience in Edmonton is proving worth toughing it for. Same with Doerfler, who isn’t leaving anytime soon. But she’s preparing for the worst.

“When I wrote e-mails to Laurie, I said, ‘What do you think I should bring?’ she said, ‘Bring your warmest boots, your warmest coat,’ and I brought my warmest jacket last year from Germany.

“But I think I need to get a warmer one.”

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