Three former Trinity Western Spartans men’s volleyball stars will be helping lead the way for Canada in Rio, as Dan Jansen Van Doorn (Langley), Steven Marshall (Abbotsford) and Rudy Verhoeff (Calgary) will make up one quarter of the Canadian Olympic men’s volleyball roster.
They will join fellow Spartan alumnus Chaim Schalk (Red Deer), who will don red and white in beach volleyball, in Rio. The TWU Olympic contingent also includes Adam Froese (Abbotsford), who will represent Canada in field hockey.
“I couldn’t be prouder of these athletes and their coaches,” said TWU president Bob Kuhn. “Given the size of our student body [4,000 students], I think sending five athletes is astounding. This marks the first time TWU will see its grads at the Olympic Games, but given the quality of the Spartans program – we’ve won a national championship every year for the last eight years – I know we’ll see more TWU grads in the future.”
TWU’s vaunted men’s volleyball program has won four CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport) national champions (2006, 2011, 2012 and 2016) and can now boast four Olympians.
“Knowing those guys and how hard they’ve worked for this opportunity and hearing the stories of their journeys – the ups and the downs – it’s pretty neat that I’ve been able to have a relationship with these guys for so long and walk with them in this process,” said Spartans coach Ben Josephson. “It’s awesome to see them achieve their goals and dreams.
“From a program perspective, it’s great for the next generation to have someone who is now going to the Olympics who has come through this program and who has gone through the same things they are going through. It’s cool to be a part of helping Canada at the Olympics. However small our role was, it’s just cool to be part of that process.”
Jansen Van Doorn, Marshall and Verhoeff were all part of the legendary 2011-12 Spartans men’s volleyball team that posted a 19-1 regular season record, before going undefeated in the playoffs en route to winning a second straight national championship. Jansen Van Doorn and Verhoeff were also part of the 2010-11 Spartans team that won the CIS title on home court at the Langley Events Centre.
“Having three players from that roster make the Olympic team speaks a lot to the strength of that cycle,” Josephson said. “We knew that group was special at the time and now as they move forward, they’ve proven how special it really was. It also speaks a lot to the character of those kids.
“There’s so much more than talent and ability that goes into staying with the absolute best 12 players there are in Canada. We believe that at Trinity Western, we’re working to develop and build that character and work ethic and we believe that our volleyball program creates athletes who know how to learn and how to grow, which are prerequisites to doing well.”
After qualifying for the Olympics, the Spartans trio went on to help the Maple Volleys national team win the Group 2 title in the FIVB Volleyball World League (the annual men’s international volleyball tournament), something Canada has never done before.
Canada, which is currently No. 12 in the FIVB rankings, will open its Olympic campaign August 7 with a match against No. 5 ranked United States at 1:05 pm (PT).
The Maple Volleys are in a pool with No. 1 Brazil, No. 4 Italy, No. 11 France and No. 26 Mexico.
The last time Canada qualified for the Olympics in men’s volleyball was in 1992 – seven years before TWU joined the CIS.
TWU alumni in Rio
Aug. 7 – Canada vs. USA – 5:05 pm (1:05 pm PT)
Aug. 9 – Canada vs. Brazil – 10:30 pm (5:30 pm PT)
Aug. 11 – Canada vs. France – 5:05 pm (1:05 pm PT)
Aug. 13 – Canada vs. Mexico – 8:30 pm (4:30 pm PT)
Aug. 15 – Canada vs. Italy – 8:30 pm (4:30 pm PT)
Aug. 17 – Quarterfinals
Aug. 19 – Semifinals
Aug. 21 – Finals
Men’s Beach Volleyball
Aug. 7 – Schalk/Saxton (CAN) vs. Samoilovs/Smedins J. (LAT) – 12 am (8 pm PT)
Aug. 9 – Schalk/Saxton (CAN) vs. Pedro Solberg/Evandro (BRA) – 10 am (6 am PT)
Aug. 11 – Schalk/Saxton (CAN) vs. Diaz/Gonzalez (CUB) – 11 am (7 am PT)
Aug. 11 – Lucky Loser Playoffs
Aug. 12-18 – Playoffs
Men’s Field Hockey
Aug. 6 – Canada vs. Germany – 6 pm (2 pm PT)
Aug. 8 – Canada vs. Argentina – 12:30 pm (8:30 am PT)
Aug. 9 – Canada vs. Netherlands – 1:30 pm (9:30 am PT)
Aug. 11 – Canada vs. Ireland – 11 am (7 am PT)
Aug. 12 – Canada vs. India – 12:30 pm (8:30 pm PT)
Aug. 14 – Quarterfinals
Aug. 16 – Semifinals
Aug. 18 – Finals
Note: CBC Radio News featured the TWU volleyball program July 28 in How a tiny school from Langley became Canada’s volleyball factory. And the evening TV news interviewed TWU volleyball coach Ben Josephson.