Lions Volleyball Picks Up A Pair of All-Star Saskatchewan Setters
In its third year of ACAC competition, the Ambrose University Lions Volleyball Program is looking to make serious waves in the league and strengthen its roster for years to come.
The recent signing of Jess Zacharias and Ryan Andres will add skill, athleticism and character to both the men's and women's teams. These new recruits are two of the most decorated young setters that Saskatchewan has to offer to our program.
On the women’s team, the latest recruit comes from a family rich in volleyball ability. Jess Zacharias, the youngest of four sisters, joins the Lions after playing for Team Saskatchewan for the last four summers. “We are excited to have Jess joining our Women’s Volleyball Team next fall,” said Women’s Head Coach Colin Kubinec. “Jess is a very talented and graceful setter and I believe she will push our team to new heights.”
Zacharias’s accolades include provincial high school championships in 2014 with Waldeheim and 2015 with Caronport, provincial club championships in the Under 16 and Under 18 categories (both with the Briercrest Volleyball Club, the latter as an Under 17 player), Saskatchewan Volleyball (SVA) Under 16 Female Player of the Year in 2015, and selection for the 2016 Youth National Development Program.
Besides having the skill to distribute the ball effectively, a high-level setter must be able to see the bigger picture and make the right split-second decisions. Zacharias welcomes this challenge: “I love the fact that setters are so involved in every rally. I really enjoy the tactical and strategic part of the game, giving my teammates opportunities to have success. The setter position also requires a great amount of leadership and I enjoy providing that too.”
Zacharias's leadership ability developed naturally, as she grew up in a volleyball household. “Papa Zak” coached Jess and her older sisters, two of whom are playing Alberta Colleges Athletics Conference (ACAC) volleyball. Samantha, with Briercrest, is a two-time ACAC South Female Player of the Year and Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Player of the Year, while sister Ashley took home ACAC South Rookie of the Year honours last year. Coming to Ambrose is an opportunity for Jess to write her own chapter in the history of Zacharias volleyball success.
When asked why she chose Ambrose, Zacharias explains that she wanted to attend a faith-based school, adding, “I’m excited to have the opportunity to be a part of a growing program and to improve my volleyball skills in a great atmosphere.” Growing up in small-town Saskatchewan also left the high school senior with a bit of a traveler’s itch: “Calgary really intrigues me . . . a big city sounds like a fun adventure!”
Coach Kubinec expects that the addition of Zacharias to the team will be relatively seamless: “She will bring many gifts to our team such as drive and competitiveness, a great volleyball IQ, a hunger to improve, leadership and connectivity with her teammates. She also fits well with our team culture pillars such as pursuing joyful excellence, being ‘for the team’ and playing with gratefulness to God. We are thrilled to begin working with her next September."
Paul Armbruster, Head Coach of the Lions Men's Volleyball Team, has recruited a setter with a similar resume. “We are extremely excited to announce the commitment from Ryan Andres to join the Lions’ family. We are so blessed to have an athlete as talented as he is, who also has strong work ethic, character and values.”
Andres grew up in Hepburn, Saskatchewan, and although no club programs exist in his hometown he has played for five seasons in the Saskatchewan Volleyball Association (SVA). For the first three seasons of his club career, he travelled to play with the Waldheim Raiders, but for his most recent two seasons he took his game south to play for the Huskies Volleyball Club out of Saskatoon.
In recent years Ryan has proven himself to be one of the very best setters in the SVA. He has played on Team Saskatchewan for the last three seasons, leading the team as Captain for the last two. Twice Andres has been selected for the Youth National Development Program, and was recently named this year’s Youth Male Beach Volleyball Athlete of the Year.
Like Zacharias, Andres enjoys the tactical and strategic aspects of his position: “I like being in control of the pace and the rhythm for each match,” he says.
Armbruster, now in his second season as Lions’ bench boss, recognizes Andres’ calibre and is excited about his leadership potential:
“Ryan is very focused and I fully expect that he will be a joy to coach," Armbruster says. "He comes from a solid family and knows what it looks like to be a leader and I foresee adding his name to a list of strong Lion leaders that we’ve had in the past.”
Andres’ recent visit to the Ambrose campus, where he toured the academic facilities, practiced with the men’s volleyball team, and sat in with the team over a weekend of league play, was enough to secure the setter’s commitment for the 2017-2018 season.
“Though I am extremely excited to play as a Lion, I wanted to come to Ambrose for more than just volleyball. I saw a real sense of community and close relationships between all the students and staff.”
Coach Armbruster couldn’t agree more and thinks that Ryan will transition easily into the Lions Volleyball Program: “He will fit in well with our team and help us achieve our mission of building Christ-like character, family, and championships.’”
Good luck, Zacharias and Andres, in your final club seasons; we’re looking forward to seeing you both in the Lions’ Den next fall!
- Brent Ingram and Ambrose Athletics
“Pursuing Excellence. Building Family. Becoming Disciples.”