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Fort Macleod volleyball player joins SAIT Trojans

Payton Van Driesten of Fort Macleod has signed to play college volleyball with the SAIT Trojans.

Payton Van Driesten has realized a longtime goal of playing college volleyball by signing with the SAIT Trojans.

The 18-year-old Fort Macleod resident will study Hospitality and Tourism Management this fall while suiting up for the Trojans.

“It is the best feeling to finally say that I have achieved one of my long term goals,” Payton said. “For as long as I can remember it has been a dream of mine to play volleyball at the next level. The amount of times I had people doubt my dream and try to tell me I was not fit to be a college bound player has been more times than I can count. The hard work has paid off and now I can prove those people wrong.”

Van Driesten will play for new Trojans coach Chantelle LaMotte who takes over a team that had six wins and 18 losses in Alberta Colleges Athletics Conference play.

Signing with the Trojans was a bright moment for Payton after the COVID-19 pandemic robbed her and other Grade 12 players of their senior season of high school sports.

“It was pretty devastating to lose my senior year due to the pandemic,” Payton said. “My senior year of high school and club volleyball had been a year I had been looking forward to since the start of my volleyball career.”

Payton began her volleyball career in Grade 6 at F.P. Walshe school, along with other school sports.

“Playing a variety of sports helped me to discover the sport that I am most passionate about, which is volleyball,” Payton said. “In Grade 8 I decided to focus primarily on volleyball, and I played volleyball for my high school and for club teams in Lethbridge. I became an athlete who played volleyball about 10 months of the year.”

Payton joined the Lethbridge Volleyball Club, later moving to the new ACE Volleyball Club and finally the competitive Panthers Volleyball Club in 2020-’21. She also attended Lethbridge College Kodiaks camps and college identification camps.

“Volleyball in my opinion is one the most team-based sports around,” the five foot 11 Payton said of her chosen sport. “No one person can carry a team, and it takes multiple players to work together in order to achieve a final goal.”

“I think that volleyball has gifted me with so many amazing life skills such as leadership, teamwork, and communication. These skills will continue to be beneficial to me throughout my life.”

Payton credited her club coaches with her continued development and eventual recruitment by SAIT as they pushed her to achieve her goals and step outside her comfort zone.

Playing against top flight players in club volleyball convinced Payton she had a shot at playing at the college level, which spurred her hard work off the court.

Payton dedicated herself to volleyball with three to four practices a week and weekend tournaments with her club teams. The many hours was time well spent.

“I have enjoyed every second of training and being on the court,” Payton said. “Volleyball has influenced me so drastically and has given me so many new friendships that I will forever be grateful for.”

Payton has had plenty of help along the way to her new place as a college athlete.

“First of all my parents have been a huge support and help in my development as a player,” Payton said of her parents Mark and Natasha. “They have dedicated time and their hard-earned money into my sports and I am so thankful for them.

In addition to her club coachs, Payton credits ACE Volleyball CEO David Wildman and Panthers coach Chris Perry for helping her development.

In September, Payton attended the Beyond the Game Showcase in Okotoks along with players from across Alberta. They performed in front of college coaches from across Canada and the United States over two days.

In addition to that exposure, Payton put a video of her own volleyball highlights on Youtube and sent a link, along with a letter of introduction, to the SAIT coach.

The SAIT coach interviewed Payton via the on-line Zoom platform, asking about her athletic strengths, abilities and volleyball philosophy, and eventually signed the former Flyer.

As a rookie, Payton will have to earn her place on the team and in the line-up — a challenge she is anticipating.

“SAIT has an amazing family-oriented team and they have a team culture based on accountability, integrity, pride, and respect,” Payton said. “I am looking forward to working within their philosophy and actively bettering myself as an individual and a player.”

Payton has strong net presence as a middle blocker and hitter. She is working to improve her speed and defensive game, and to play with consistency.

To get ready for college, Payton is lifting weights, working on her cardio and doing jump training to increase her agility and her vertical leap.

Payton will spend two years working toward a diploma in Hospitality and Tourism before working on a bachelor’s degree in the same program.

“I am planning to major in event planning where I can hopefully find an occupation where I can organize weddings, conferences, festivals,” Payton explained. “In the future I want to travel with my occupation and discover new areas of the world I have never seen before.”

That journey coincides with another new beginning as a college athlete.

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