One of the Island's top high school volleyball prospects is already off the market.
Victoria Behie is heading into her senior year at Nanaimo District Secondary School and just recently gave a verbal confirmation to the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds.
But that is only half of her big news.
On the weekend, she paired with Sarah Chase out of Timberline Secondary in Campbell River to earn bronze at the U-18 Beach National Championships in Vancouver.
The medal capped a big summer for the 16-year-old right-side power as she was also a captain on the indoor provincial team, which earned a silver medal at the National Challenge Cup in Winnipeg. She is now entering her final high school season with the NDSS Islanders as one of the early favourites for the AAA provincials.
The last few months have been a wild ride for the six-foot-one teen.
"It's been awesome," she said. "I've grown huge amounts as a player. It's just been so fun doing all of these different experiences and meeting all of these different people."
Chase and Behie qualified for nationals after earning gold at provincials in Parksville last month, which was also their first ever beach competition as a team.
They entered nationals just hoping to finish in the top eight, but made it through two days of pool play with a 5-1 record and one of the top seeds as for the playoff portion on Sunday. They won their first match to secure a spot in the top eight, then won their quarter-final game, putting them up against Chloe Stone and Sarah Pantovic out of Vancouver in the semifinal. They unfortunately dropped that game and were prepared to take on another Vancouver team, Emily Maglio and Amanda Ramsden.
However, Maglio injured herself in their semifinal and they were forced to drop out, handing the bronze to Behie and Chase. Still, the Island team was confident they would have won had they played, after beating them in the provincial semifinal in straight sets.
"We were going in with the attitude that we were going to play hard, but we already knew how they played," said Behie.
Hitting the podium was beyond what Chase, 15, had envisioned heading into the tournament.
"My goal in my mind was to get into the top eight so I was floored that we got to third," she said, adding they are likely going to try and take a run at gold together next year.
The two had met before this summer, but had never played together. They really got to know each other on the provincial indoor team, of which Behie was a captain, and it didn't take long for them to form chemistry.
By the time the provincial team had packed it in for the summer, Stephen Epp, the Vancouver Island region beach volleyball coach, had talked them into taking it to the sand.
"We just decided to play together at the last minute. .. we had just one training session and that's it," said Behie.
With indoor volleyball, players often become specialists. If they have vision and a deft touch they're often put at setter. If they have a big vertical and a booming attack, they're placed at one of the power positions. If they're great defensively, libero.
In beach volleyball there is none of that. With just two on the court, they have to be good at everything.
"They're both such versatile athletes, they're probably two of the best athletes I've ever worked with," said Epp, who has worked with Behie since she was in Grade 7 and Chase just this past year. "It's their ability to adapt and they're extremely intelligent when it comes to being volleyball players."
The five-foot-11 Chase, however, says it was their attitude that helped carry them through the weekend.
"What made us successful is we never got down on each other," she said. "The indoor part of (playing) with Team B.C. made us more tough mentally, and that really helped us."
Behie now enters her final year at NDSS with big expectations, especially after playing with Team B.C. and working with the best players in the province this summer. The Islanders earned their first provincial volleyball medal last year with their third place finish. But they are also returning a big portion of that team, including Behie who was their captain and named MVP at the Island championships and was a provincial all-star.
"We do have a good core of girls coming back and I think we'll have a young team again," said Behie.
"We'll have some girls coming from Grade 10 who are quite tall, so they'll be good in the front row. But we're just going to do what we usually do, which is go out, have fun, work hard and the end result will take care of itself."
Chances are they will run into Chase and Timberline at some point, after they finished sixth in B.C. last year, in what is a quickly developing rivalry.
Still it's not one either of the girls takes too seriously.
"Sarah's the sweetest, nicest person ever, we just laugh about it, we think it's funny," said Behie.
One big thing already out of the way for Behie is the decision about her future. UBC just won their fifth-consecutive national championship last season. But Behie knows this means she will have her work cut out for her.
"This decision was so tough for me, figuring out what would be a good place for me to go, academically and athletics," she said.
"I'm going to have to work hard to earn court time and we'll see where I can fit in with the team dynamics."
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