As a child, Lauryn Hovey hated volleyball.
Her mother, Ann, and aunt, Corinne Williams, both coached the sport and encouraged her to take to the field to try it out.
“I thought it was super boring and I never wanted to play it again,” Hovey said.
But when she was about eight years old, her friend went to volleyball camp with the KW Predators, and Hovey went with her, as her friends often do.
That’s when things clicked.
“I liked it so much and that’s how I started,” said the 17-year-old.
Now, Hovey is one of 18 top prospects participating in Volleyball Canada’s National Program of Excellence (NEP) in Richmond, BC.
The four-month program gives athletes the chance to train full-time, live with accommodation and go to school while receiving the best instruction from national coaches.
Hovey also broke through to Canada’s women’s under-18 team, which departs Friday to compete at the world under-18 volleyball championships in Durango, Mexico.
“I’m really excited,” she said. “For me, it’s just an opportunity to play internationally, to travel, to improve and to get a glimpse of what teams around the world are playing.”
Hovey tried the NEP program when it launched last year, but was unsuccessful. Undeterred, the right side hitter/setter and longtime KW Predators player came back this year and made the cut.
She arrived in Richmond, British Columbia earlier this month, where she is living with a host family and training five days a week. She also attends the gym, takes specialized courses in training, nutrition and mental preparation, among others, and studies distance learning at Waterloo Collegiate Institute.
“It’s really busy,” said the six-footer. “Just get in there and work.”
And that’s never been a problem for Hovey, who has worked his way up the ranks with the KW Predators over the past decade while playing on regional and provincial teams.
“She’s an extraordinarily gifted volleyball player,” Predators U18 coach Lisa Watson said. “She’s a hard worker, humble, determined, all that. She is the package. She has a crazy high ceiling and she keeps growing.
A dozen girls from the NEP program have been chosen to enter Canada U18 for the world championships. For Hovey, who has verbally committed to Bowling Green University in Ohio next year, it’s a big deal and a step in the right direction for her volleyball career.
“It’s a lot of hard work and it’s starting to pay off, but there’s still a lot to do,” she said. “I would really like to represent Canada and play on the women’s national team and compete in the Olympics one day.”