‘Team spirit is high’ for Nunavut squad at Arctic Winter Games
Team Nunavut’s women’s volleyball team meets Team Northwest Territories Tuesday at the Arctic Winter Games in Wood Buffalo, Alta. Competing cheers of “NU!” and “NT!” from the fans in the crowd kept the energy high throughout the game. NT walked away with a 3-1 win. (Photo by Madalyn Howitt)
Early morning starts and long days on the court won’t last the Nunavut women’s volleyball team at the Arctic Winter Games.
“It was interesting, is that the right word for it?” Coach Beverly Netusil laughed.
The team got up at 4:30 a.m. on Monday and then had to wait a long time for the bus that takes the teams from the athletes’ village to the arena, about 50 kilometers away, “but they sang all the way here,” she said.
“The team spirit is high. I couldn’t ask for a better dynamic with the girls right now.”
For many of the team members, it’s their first time competing in a high-performance competition, Netusil said.
But co-captain Alyson McKay of Rankin Inlet has some experience under her belt, having just a few months ago competed in the Canada Summer Games in the Niagara region of Canada alongside Shawna Kyak, who coaches Nunavut’s at those games Ontario has participated futsal team.
“I’ve wanted to be in the Arctic Winter Games since I was 10 years old,” said McKay, “so I’m very happy. I’m very excited.”
Like many of the athletes, McKay’s mission when she’s not on court is to collect as many pins as possible from the other teams at the pin exchange center.
“I have two pounds of pins in my pocket. I want to do this for four,” she laughed.
The team put on several high-energy games each day of the competition, which opened last Sunday in Wood Buffalo, Alta and concludes Saturday.
When they took on the Northwest Territories on the Syncrude Wellness Center pitch on Tuesday, enthusiastic cheers of “NU!” and “NT!” rang out. of fans in the crowd kept the players on their toes.
While the team is yet to win a game, they won a set against the Northwest Territories, finishing the game 3-1 and celebrating “hugely,” Netusil said.
“We know we’re this underdog team with the youngest team here in the tournament, so any chance we get to achieve a goal like that is just fantastic,” she said.
“None of us thought we’d get a set, so the fact that we’ve done it and so early in the competition makes us excited for what’s to come.”
Netusil said the momentum for playing volleyball in Nunavut has grown.
“We have entered many more high-performance competitions. We offer more training opportunities across Canada, even some internationally. So there’s a lot of excitement behind the logo and a lot of girls want to play,” she said.
Team Nunavut was scheduled to play the Northwest Territories in Thursday’s quarterfinals. The Nunavut men’s volleyball team also played Alaska in a preliminary round match on Thursday.