It was a toss-up decision for Tessa Neil coming out of high-school—either play on the beach or stay on the court for university volleyball.
The 5-foot-11 outside hitter from KSS opted for the latter and will stay in Kelowna to play for Steve Manuel and the UBC Okanagan women’s team.
“In my last year I just realized court was more my passion,” said Neil, who moved to Kelowna from the Lower Mainland in 2013. “I always wanted to come play for UBC Okanagan. (My family and I) used to come to Kelowna all of the time when I was young. It has always been a place I have loved.”
The Junior Heat member spent her senior year of high school with the Kelowna Secondary Owls, developing a relationship with her new coach Steve Manuel while getting to watch UBCO’s furious assent to top of the Canada West standings.
“I’ve been able to practice with the team a couple of times, and I really enjoy (Manuel’s)coaching style,” Neil added. “They seem like a great group.”
Neil will be sliding in as a power hitter for Manuel and the Heat following a successful high-school career. She was a 17U Provincial Club champion and the tournament’s MVP in 2014, working her way to a tournament all-star nomination at the UBC Okanagan Heat High School Invitational.
Out on the sand, she won back-to-back silver medals at the national championships from 2013-2014 after grabbing the bronze in 2012.
The new Heat member brings some international experience with her as well. She was a gold medalist at the Florida Volleyball Tour AAU U18 championships in 2014, and placed fifth overall with her club team at the U16 USA beach championships in 2013.
Neil previously played club for Seaside Volleyball before playing with the Junior Heat.
Manuel has confirmed his plans to use Neil as a powerful offensive tool, but praised his recruit’s overall game as well. “I believe that she has all the tools to be a great power hitter at the next level,” the coach said, also calling Neil a “great passer with great touch on the ball.” while also saying that she “shows incredible poise on serve receive and is a solid defender.”
Neil has applied for both the human kinetics and management programs at UBC Okanagan, but has admitted a preference towards management.
“It will be a big change,” Neil said of her jump to the next level in her athletic and academic pursuits. “It will be a lot more busy. I like how it’s a smaller campus, and that it is close to home.”