NORTH BAY – Little Current athlete Sydney Koehler has signed a contract with the Nipissing University Lakers to play on its volleyball team, fulfilling a decade-long dream of joining a volleyball team at the university level.
“For a long time I wasn’t sure what was going to happen with the whole pandemic going on. But I’m very happy because I’ve wanted to be a part of this for a long time,” Sydney told The Expositor.
The Island athlete has competed in a number of sporting events in her education career such as track and field and soccer. She played for the Manitoulin Secondary School (MSS) Mustangs during her time as a student there and served as manager for the 2016 Northern Ontario Secondary School Association (NOSSA)-winning Mustangs boys’ volleyball team.
Sydney is presently finishing up a gap year at Espanola High School.
In the volleyball world, Sydney excels as a hitter, playing primarily on the right side of the court.
“I’m a hitter, but I can also play left side as well which would make me an outside hitter,” she said.
A note on the Lakers Athletics website states that Sydney has signed as an outside hitter.
“We are very happy to welcome Sydney to the Lakers family. From the first time I met Sydney I knew she would be a great fit and would contribute positively to our team culture. She is very passionate about the game and has a keen desire to learn,” stated Lakers volleyball head coach Marc LaRochelle in the announcement.
Sydney first got into competitive volleyball in the summer after Grade 7 when her mother signed her up for a Sudbury volleyball camp called Kabuum.
“I had just started playing volleyball the previous year and really liked it, so I wanted to get better. While I was there I met some players from the Sudbury club team, called the Northern Chill,” said Sydney.
Those campmates encouraged her to try out for the team as a way to strengthen her abilities. The team is affiliated with the summer camp. That fall, she made the cut and has been playing for the Northern Chill ever since.
The club has three tiers—trillium (A), championship (AA) and premier (AAA). Although Sydney said she had never been at the top of the country with her club team, the Chill squad did earn some impressive accolades.
“I think our team’s biggest accomplishment was when we were in 16U in Grade 10, we won the provincials for division two, tier two,” said Sydney.
That victory was noted in an April 19, 2017 story by then-reporter Robin Burridge. Roughly 8,000 athletes from 650 teams competed at the event, including fellow Islander Ryann Hudson.
The sport is a labour of love for Sydney. Training and practices meant driving to Sudbury three times per week, so getting to settle into a new home where education and athletics can mesh together is exciting for the 18-year-old who is getting ready for her post-secondary journey.
“I’m going into the concurrent education program with a major in criminal justice,” said Sydney. “Criminal justice is something I’ve been interested in for a long time. I have family who are definitely in the law world; my uncle was a lawyer and judge, I have a cousin in law school and an aunt who is a lawyer in Toronto. It’s always interested me.”
Transitioning to the new environment will be aided by the constant of volleyball in her life, including one of her fellow new recruits, Amy, who is a friend and Northern Chill teammate.
“I’m not too close with the rest of the girls on the (Lakers) team but I have been in contact and they all seem really nice,” said Sydney.
The Nipissing Lakers women’s volleyball schedule typically runs from late October to the end of February.