Caitlyn Nyhus couldn’t hold back the tears as hard as she tried.
The fifth-year member of the UBC Okanagan Heat women’s volleyball team was honoured before a match against Camosun College Feb. 4 for a stellar career. Emotions rose for Nyhus because she was playing one of her final games and it happened to be against a former teammate, Brenna White, who played four years with the Heat. Nyhus and White lived together for two years.
After listening to a touching speech from the Heat’s athletic director Rob Johnson, who gave her flowers, White then hugged her friend and Nyhus was nearly ready for business.
“She (White) was all right, stop your crying, we have a game to play,” recalled Nyhus. “I think I got myself pretty composed before the game started. I was surprised that I didn’t play worse. I thought it would really affect me.”
The Heat dropped the Chargers on 25-12, 25-12, 25-21 with Nyhus collecting seven points (two kills, two blocks and three aces), and also chipped in for four digs. That effort earned Nyhus, who is considered the premier setter in the BC Collegiate Athletic Association, Athlete of the Week honours.
The Pen High grad has become a key to the Heat, which has won two national championships and earned bronze during a third national championship appearance. Following that weekend, Nyhus played in (including league and playoffs) 99 matches, going 88-11-0, winning 89 per cent of her matches. Nyhus’ teams have also won 274 of those sets dropping 55 for an 80 per cent success rate.
“She is one of the most successful players in the BCCAA,” said Heat head coach Steve Manuel. “There’s not a long list of players in the country that can say that. It’s the end of an era in a lot of ways. She’s been our starting setter for half a decade.”
While the only numbers that Nyhus “sometimes” looks at are defensive ones, she was impressed with what she has accomplished.
“It’s pretty unbelievable I think,” said Nyhus, who will graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology.
Looking back on her career, the soon to be 23-year-old reflects on the national championship as she tries to figure out what they did to do it again this year. The first national title is Nyhus’ favourite.
“Our first national championship win was awesome because it was such a nail-biter,” she said of the five-set match against Grant MacEwen from Edmonton. “We had to pull through the last few points to win and that was exciting. Last year’s national championship was just as exciting, but I think the first one was the highlight of my career.”
Learning to become a dominant force on the court began at Uplands Elementary School, where Nyhus’ mother coached the Grade 7 boys team. Getting involved in the sport at such a young age, Nyhus recalls that players had to serve to earn points, which she then immediately said ages herself a bit. She’s a fan of the new point system because “every point matters.”
“It’s a lot more intense this way,” said Nyhus, who may venture to Europe to play semi-pro volleyball. “In Grade 5, I don’t know how intense it possibly could have gotten.”
This season, the Heat are 18-6 overall and 13-1 in league action. The last time the Heat lost a match this season was Nov. 20/10 against VIU from Nanaimo, who they got revenge against Feb. 5 winning 3-1. Since Jan. 14, the Heat have won 18 of 20 sets.
“I have witnessed Cait grow as setter, as a player and as young woman,” continued Manuel. “It’s been a great career, but we are not done by any stretch. If I know anything about Cait, it’s that she won’t be satisfied unless we have another banner raising ceremony after this season. If this past weekend is any indication of how well she will play in our upcoming championship, we will be tough to beat. The bigger the match, the better Caitlin
plays … period.”