When members of the UBC Okanagan Heat men’s volleyball squad take to the court on Thursday at the CCAA national men’s volleyball championship in Sherbrooke, Quebec, they will do so with heavy hearts.
The B.C. collegiate champions are in the process of coping with the loss of one of their teammates, 18-year-old rookie Jordan Young who was killed Sunday morning in a single-vehicle accident near Vernon.
Young’s car left the road and struck a power pole at 2:30 a.m.
RCMP reported he was extracted from the vehicle using the Jaws of Life, then later died in Kelowna General Hospital.
Police indicated speed and alcohol may have contributed to the crash.
Young, a graduate of Clarence Fulton Secondary, was to have joined his UBC Okanagan teammates Tuesday on a flight bound for the Canadian men’s collegiate volleyball championship in Quebec.
Heat coach Greg Poitras said Jordan Young’s enthusiasm and character will be sadly missed by Heat coaches and players alike.
“He was a big part of our team,” Poitras said. “It’s an unthinkable thing that’s happened to our volleyball family and to Jordan’s family.
“In my coaching opinion, he was a very happy young man, he was just ecstatic to be in university, to make the varsity team and, you know, to get his life going. As a rookie we had to support him from day one, we treated him like a brother. And I think Jordan always felt a part of our family.”
Two weeks ago, Young and the Heat won the gold medal at the BCCAA men’s championship in Kelowna.
Poitras said it will take some time for his players to deal with the tragic loss of their teammate.
“It’s going to be rough for sure. A lot of players on our team have probably never dealt with death like this, or even under any circumstances. Every guy is going to deal with this differently, so it’s important for us to nurture and support each other through this.”
As for competing at the national championship this week, Poitras assures Young won’t be far from the Heat’s thoughts.
The team will have Young’s initials and number 5 embroidered on to their jerseys.
Poitras hopes his players can find a balance between the recent tragic events and the opportunity to win the national title.
“There’s no question we didn’t need any extra motivation for nationals, we had plenty of that, the guys we’re focused and ready to play,” Poitras said. “Under these circumstances the focus has shifted, at least for the time being and that’s totally understandable.
“Once we get to Sherbrooke, we’ll need to refocus on the task at hand. A coach never prepares for something quite like this.”
Heat player and fellow Vernon product Greg said the best way to honour their fallen teammate would be to hoist the CCAA championship trophy on Saturday night in Quebec.
“We’re dedicating the national tournament to Jordan, for sure,” said Niemansverdriet. “He’d definitely wants us to win the gold medal and we want to do that.
“I didn’t really know him before this year but everyone got to know him,” Niemansverdriet added. “He was a great guy, super friendly, always smiling, always wanting to get better on the court. He just loved being with the team. He was always trying hard.”
The No. 1 ranked Heat will open the CCAA championship on Thursday in Sherbooke against the No. 8 Kings University College from Halifax.