Strait Highland Volleyball Club gets established in Antigonish

Making up the Strait Highland Volleyball Club are (back, from left) Leah LeBlanc, Laura Smith, Madison Holmes, Maia Green, Marcy MacNeil, Taylor Sampson, Holly Cameron, Catherine Rioux, and Rachel McKeough. In the middle are (from left) Mallory Chislett, Madison DeCoste, coach Margaret MacDonald, Jeanne LeBlanc, coach Rachel Sears, and Jayde Marchand. In front are coach Peter Artibello and Manger Lucas Artibello.

ANTIGONISH: Last September, Peter Artbello started helping out Dr. J.H. Gillis Regional High School volleyball coach Joe Duggan after being out of the gym for about 10 years.

Artbello said he realized there wasn’t any coach available for kids in Antigonish, Pictou, Guysborough, Inverness, and Richmond counties who wanted to play volleyball during the club season, which begins in January.

“I talked to some of the high school coaches and said after eight years at StFX and 10 years of not coaching, I’m willing to come back and help out those kids that are interested in training at the elite.”

Artbello said they held try-outs in the second week of December and then decided to go with a team with five young women from Pictou, four from Antigonish and Guysborough, and five from Richmond and Inverness. They decided to call the association the Strait Highland Volleyball Club and went with Kempe for the team. The bulk of the team is 17-year-olds, with some 16 and 18-year-olds.

The team trains out of Antigonish as it’s the most central location.

“As a first year club we did okay,” he said. “We placed fifth in provincials. It went fairly well. We figured we could be top five because we were playing with teams that have been together for a long time and we’ve got a group of young ladies that are travelling an hour to practice and then an hour to get home. It’s tough on them and they don’t really know one another.”

Artbello said they will have 10 players returning next season, and he’d like to have a few teams at each age level and possibly some boys’ teams as well.

“We’re going to take this group to nations on Victoria Day Weekend in Edmonton,” he said. “It’s an open tournament. We’re going to go more for the experience and to see the level of ball that we try to aspire to get to. What’s nice is because we have such a large group coming back we’re hoping this unit will be together and then we can do it again next year and get better and grow.

“I’m excited,” Artbello continued. “I think as a first year club it’s been a lot of fun. The parents and fundraising has been awesome and we’re looking forward to this national championship. I don’t expect to come away with a medal but we’re going there to compete and aspire to compete at the highest level possible.”