CANMORE – The Calgary Dinos wasted no time in locking up Evvia Belireau, a greatly desired volleyball prospect out of Canmore, before her Grade 12 season even started.
The 16-year-old libero accepted a verbal offer in June to play for the University of Calgary Dinos in 2022-23, one of the top volleyball programs in Canada, and made official at the end of September.
"I had a few offers from other teams, but I chose the Dinos," said Belireau. "The past three years I've played for the Junior Dinos, which is like their junior program, so we're kind of affiliated with the school and we sometimes will get to play with the university players and their coach will come and sometimes teach during practices, so I already kind of learned about their program and I loved it so much."
On the "shorter side" in the volleyball world, the five-foot-six libero is giant on defence by fiercely protecting the back court and being a loud, vocal leader to peers. Her exceptional talent, leadership abilities, and diving-for-every-ball mentality caught the attention of long-time Canmore Wolverines volleyball coach Darren Anderson years ago.
In Belireau's Grade 10 year, Anderson made a bold move and started the younger athlete in the seniors lineup.
"We’ve had lots of girls go play post-secondary volleyball, but we’ve never had someone being actively recruited by many universities at the same time and sign with a program before they’ve even finished Grade 12," said Anderson.
"It’s pretty rare from our school and rare in general if they just make the jump straight into high school to that CIS level of volleyball – that’s a pretty high, elite level talent to be able to do that."
This past January, Belireau began speaking with her next coach Christine Biggs, a newer addition to the Dinos program, and was drawn to her coaching style.
The daughter of Calgary Dinos alumni, Belireau grew to love the program through the Junior Dinos, which made her decision to join the big Dinos an easy one.
"I learned so much from one session with [Biggs] so I knew this was going to be the place for me," said Belireau, who played on the U18 Team Alberta in a two-week camp this past summer.
There is an anticipation that the highly sought prospect will start next season with the Dinos. It's a nervous thought, but exciting at the same time.
"It is a bit of pressure, so I feel I have to perform and live up to, like, that standard as well," Belireau said. "But honestly, in practice [I should] keep doing what I'm doing because what I'm doing is good enough to be at that level so just keep practicing and playing hard and it will come."
Starting volleyball in Grade 7, Belireau's older sister Annika introduced her to the sport in their backyard.
She played two seasons with the Rocky Mountain Volleyball Club before trying out for the Junior Dinos squad.
She was also the younger sibling who came out to the older kids' practices.
"[Belireau] came over to one of our practices and just kind of jumped in and was helping out and was passing the ball around a little bit," said Anderson. "I was looking at her and thinking this girl is talented for a Grade 7, like super talented.
"I could see her potentially being on the national team one day. I'm sure that's probably on her radar in terms of what she wants to do next."
The young leader is used to being fearless on the court and also in predictions.
Earning a spot on the national team one day has crossed Belireau's mind once or twice.
"My end goal is Team Canada," she said without hesitation. "It's bold, but why not? I came form a small town and made the club team in Calgary, which I didn't think could happen, so honestly, anything could happen."