Current members and alumni of the York Lions volleyball program will begin their summer seasons on May 29 as the Toronto Premier Volleyball League kicks off its third season of play.
On the women’s side, two current Lions will suit up this season. Senior Sarah Williams will play in the league for the second year for the Madawaska Madness and Aleksandra Steins will play her first year in the league for the Soul Machine.
Williams, an outside hitter who is majoring in communication studies, will return to York for her fifth and final season in 2019-20. She has had a stellar career so far with the Lions, as she was named to the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) all-rookie team in her first year and earned an OUA second-team all-star award and team MVP in 2017-18. Steins, a 6-foot-6 middle who transferred from Niagara University to York ahead of last season, stepped into the Lions’ starting lineup right away and led the team in several offensive categories. The classical studies major led the Lions with 191.5 points, 139 kills, 2.9 points per set and 51 blocks.
In the men’s division, four current Lions and four alumni will represent York in the Premier League this season. Middle Grant Lynch and outside hitter Andrew Shotbolt will team up for the Beaches Brewing Co., while middle Toure Nwakwesi will patrol the net for the Magnes Spartans. Shotbolt and Nwakwesi are both former OUA all-stars who are returning for their fifth years at York next year, while Lynch returned to the program last year after taking two years off and had his most impressive season yet, averaging 2.0 points and 1.55 kills per set.
Current Lions outside hitter Kirsten Duncan-Thibault will join his older brother and Lions alumni Alex Duncan-Thibault on the men’s Soul Machine team. Alex is playing for the Soul Machine for the second consecutive season after graduating from the Lions in 2016-17 following a decorated five-year career. His final season with the Lions coincided with Kirsten’s rookie season, and the younger brother is now one of seniors on the Lions as he heads into his fourth year with the squad.
The Duncan-Thibault brothers will be joined on the Soul Machine team by Lions alumni Gregory Ivan (2009-14) and Felipe Humana-Parades (2009-13), who is also the current assistant coach of the Lions men’s volleyball team and was the first-round draft pick of the team. John May, the Lions women’s team’s former head coach and fellow current assistant coach with Humana-Parades on the men’s team, is also the head coach of the Soul Machine.
James Battiston, who played with York from 2003 to 2008 and is a former beach national team athlete and professional player in the Netherlands and Austria, rounds out the Lions alumni and will team with Shotbolt and Nwakwesi on the Beaches Brewing Co.
The Toronto Premier League, which also has a counterpart league in Calgary, hosts its games in different locations throughout the Greater Toronto Area starting with Humber College on May 29. The league was established in 2017 to provide an opportunity for elite male and female volleyball players to play professional volleyball in Canada. The league features four men’s teams and four women’s teams made up of current and former professional athletes, national team members and top U SPORTS and Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association players. Interested players apply to become eligible for an athlete draft, where they have the opportunity to be selected by one of the league’s teams.
York will take its turn hosting the Premier League on Thursday, July 11, as two first-round playoff games will take place at the Tait McKenzie Centre.
For more information on the Premier League, visit premiervolleyballleague.org.