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Fort Macleod player among Alberta’s best

Brayden Van Driesten (right) of Fort Macleod was one of 32 players invited to try out for the Alberta U17 volleyball team.

A Fort Macleod teenager is among the top volleyball players in Alberta.
Brayden Van Driesten achieved one of his goals when he was invited to try out for the provincial U17 team in Edmonton.
“I always thought it would be pretty cool to represent your province and show what you have at that level,” Brayden said.
Brayden was one of 32 17-year-olds from across the province invited to the Team Alberta camp July 2-16 at the Go Centre on the University of Edmonton campus.
Two weeks of training with the top players in Alberta under the guidance of elite coaches made him a better player.
“Hands down,” Brayden said. “I came out way better. You learn the little things that make you better.”
The day started with a wake-up call about 6:30 a.m. and after breakfast the players began warming up at 9 a.m. and spent the rest of the morning working on volleyball fundamentals.
After a lunch break the players underwent physical training with people from the U of A’s kinesiology department, and then it was back on the court for more volleyball training.
Being invited to a Team Alberta camp has long been a goal for the five foot 11, 170-pound Brayden.
A member of the F.P. Walshe Flyers and the Lethbridge Volleyball Club, Brayden was at first a hockey player and then took up volleyball as well.
Brayden played both sports for a while but in 2007 decided to concentrate on volleyball.
He was inspired in part by the example of former F.P. Walshe Flyers such as Josh O’Sullivan, who played volleyball with passion.
“I love volleyball,” Brayden said. “I really do love hockey too, but I have more desire for volleyball.”
“You just find out what your sport is after a while. You figure out what you want to do with your life.”
Brayden plays power with the Flyers, a position that emphasizes passing, hitting and defence.
“You’ve got to be able to put the ball away at important parts of the game,” Brayden said. “You’re the go-to hitter.”
With Lethbridge Volleyball Club, of which Brayden has been a member for five years, he plays power and libero, a position with mainly defensive responsibilities.
Brayden has always been a strong player and this season realized his hopes when he grew to close to five foot 11, from five foot seven.
Pleased with that added height, Brayden still found himself looking up to most of the players at the Team Alberta camp.
“I was the second-shortest player at camp,” said Brayden, who despite a height disadvantage used his 36-inch vertical jump to leap higher than taller players.
The Team Alberta coaches gave Brayden time at power but his best shot at making the team was at libero. The coaches told Brayden he was the best passer at camp, but his defensive skills at libero — a position he hardly played this season — were a liability.
“They said I should keep passing and keep working on my vertical,” Brayden said of advice from the Team Alberta coaches. “They figure I can jump higher.”
Although he came close to making Team Alberta as libero, Brayden has no plans to ask his coaches with the Flyers or Lethbridge to make the switch from power.
“I love power,” Brayden said. “You get to hit, block and pass. You almost get to do it all.”
Although disappointed not to make the provincial team, Brayden is pleased to have had the chance to play with the elite players his age, and to experience university life by living in the U of A dorm.
The two weeks in Edmonton have Brayden anticipating the 2011 high school season, with what promises to be a strong Flyers team.
“I think we can win provincials this year,” said Brayden, who also plans to coach junior high volleyball this season. “I think our team can be strong. We have a lot of talent.”
Brayden has already caught the eye of Canadian and U.S. college coaches, and is hopeful he can land a scholarship to move his passion for the game to a higher level.
“When you play with better players you get better,” Brayden said. “If you play at that level you imagine how good you could be.”