Aidan Lea is returning home.
The 6-foot-5 middle blocker, who played last season in the NCAA’s Pac 12 with the Colorado University Buffaloes, will join the UBC Okanagan Heat for the 2016-17 Canada West volleyball season.
A graduate of the KSS Owls program in 2014, Lea will help fill the void left by the departure of both of the Heat’s starting middles and CIS all-Canadians from last season, Katie Wuttunee and Katy Klomps.
Heat head coach Steve Manuel said Lea will be a valuable addition to the women’s program.
“I have kept a close eye on Aidan’s development over the past five years and I believe this to be a great fit for all parties concerned,” said Manuel, who coached Aidan as a 16-year-old with the Junior Heat program. “I thought at that time was that it would be great to see her in a Heat uniform permanently.
“It took a bit longer than we had hoped for, but we are extremely happy that she is here now.”
Manuel said with Klomps and Wuttunee gone, Lea will play a big role at the middle blocker position “at least in the short term.”
Manuel noted Lea has also shown plenty of potential as an outside hitter and could be used in that capacity in the future.
Lea had a successful first season with the NCAA Div. 1 program in Boulder, CO playing mostly part time, but also earning a key start and helping the Buffaloes to an upset of the 14th-ranked Florida Gators.
Lea is coming back to Kelowna and the Heat to play for a program that she knows well and one that has a chance to win.
“I chose UBCO because I am excited to have the opportunity to win a championship, in a small tight-knit program that is close to home and with great academics,” said Lea, who added she enjoyed playing for coach Steve Manuel with the Junior Heat.
“I’m excited to be a part of a championship culture that I’ve grown up around, and to have the opportunity to play at the CIS level in my hometown,” she said. “I hope I can be effective in the middle and help contribute to the team’s success this year.”
Lea played her high school volleyball at Kelowna Secondary and was also the team captain of the U17 team that won the provincial championship in 2014.
Lea plans to study International Relations and Political Science this fall at UBC Okanagan.