Volleyball player receives scholarship
An Airdrie volleyball player has come a long way from passing the ball back and forth with his older brother in the family’s backyard. Now, he’s made history.
Mike Harrison is the first student from St. Martin de Porres to be awarded a college volleyball scholarship to play with the Briercrest College Clippers in Caronport, Sask.
“It’s such a great honour,” Harrison said. “St. Martin de Porres has a very good volleyball program and it was good to come up through it.”
A natural athlete, the 18-year-old played a multitude of sports, including hockey, badminton, basketball, and track and field before concentrating on volleyball. He began playing competitive volleyball at the age of 14, starting on the Grade 7 team.
“I’ve always likes the strategical and technical aspects of volleyball,” he said. “You don’t get that in other sports. With all the little things you have to do, when you play high-level volleyball, nothing compares.”
That same year, he joined the Canada West and Cochrane Jaguars club teams. Each level helped develop his game, but he counted his high school coaches, Ryan Johnson and Edmund Crane, as two who helped shape his character and his composure.
This year, as team captain, Harrison led the Kodiaks volleyball team to the city championships, where it won the school’s first volleyball title.
The Kodiaks also advanced to the 3A provincials, another first for the 2A school in any sport.
For Harrison and the team, moving up to 3A was another challenge they were happy to accept.
“When you play 2A, you get the odd player that’s good,” he said. “With 3A, they’re all club players, and it’s night and day. It’s a huge difference (competition wise).”
While Harrison was helping lead his high school team to a city title, he was also considering his future after graduation. While he was competing at nationals with the Jaguars he was approached by a scout for the men’s volleyball team at Trinity Western University in B.C. From there, Harrison began to consider playing volleyball at the collegiate level.
Harrison received scholarship offers from a number of other colleges and universities, including Medicine Hat College, Augustana and Kings College, but it was the offer from Briercrest he found too good to pass up.
Harrison met Clippers coach Nigel Mullan at an Alberta Volleyball Association (AVA) tournament and Mullan offered the young setter double the scholarship of other schools and a spot on the court in September.
“That’s very rare for a first year player,” Harrison said. “Usually in university and college volleyball you don’t play until your third year. To play in your first year is extraordinary.”
Briercrest’s high standing in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) was another factor for Harrison. In the past six years, the Clippers haven’t finished lower than fourth place in the league and were ranked in the top two twice, advancing to Nationals both years. While playing for Briercrest is in Harrison’s immediate future, he’s leaving his long-term plans open. He said he is hoping the experience and court time with the Clippers translates into a roster spot with a Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) team. He had offers from the University of Saskatchewan and Thompson River University, and is leaning towards eventually playing for the latter in a couple of years.
He followed in his brother, Matthew’s footsteps when he took up volleyball at the age of seven. When he was considering what to study at Briercrest in the fall, he decided to follow in another family tradition. With his brother having studied neuroscience and his sister a psychology major, Harrison is looking to study biology, an area that has fascinated him since he was young.
Thanks to his experience playing club volleyball and with the Canada West team, Harrison said he is ready to make the jump to collegiate ball, and he’s hoping for some success along the way.
“Canada West was my first year playing club,” he said. “It’ was a pretty big jump, but a really good experience. We practiced an extra three hours a week and that elevated my game. That was the first time I have ever made a good volleyball team.”
“I’m hoping we win,” he said. “I really want to get some good coaching and take my game to the next level. That’s my biggest thing. Nigel is known as one of the best coaches in the ACAC, so I want to learn a lot and advance my game while playing the sport I love.”