Heslinga, Sargent Have Young Alberta Men's Volleyball Team Playing Beyond Its Years | CBC Sports


Leading the way for the No. 2-ranked Alberta Golden Bears are a pair of six-foot-seven outside hitters in the form of third-year Isaac Heslinga and second-year Jacob Sargent.

Pair of outside hitters both named captains of respective international teams

Rory Sumner · CBC Sports

· Posted: Jan 24, 2024 4:00 AM EST | Last Updated: 1 hour ago

Alberta’s Isaac Heslinga (17), along with Jacob Sargent (not pictured), lead a young Golden Bears men’s volleyball team that is hoping to repeat its 2022 gold medal performance at nationals in March. (Connor Howe/University of Alberta Golden Bears)The University of Alberta men’s volleyball roster on paper does not conjure up images of an experienced team at the U Sports level.

With no fifth-year player in the usual rotation and a starting lineup littered with first- through third-year players, the youthful nature of the Golden Bears’ team does not equate with the leadership group on the squad and the success they’ve achieved.

Leading the way for the No. 2-ranked team in the nation is a pair of six-foot-seven outside hitters in the form of third-year Isaac Heslinga and second-year Jacob Sargent.

WATCH | Heslinga, Sargent bring international experience to table:

U of A men’s volleyball team’s international presence makes them a team to be reveredUniversity of Alberta’s men’s volleyball team has had big success in U Sports and hopes to continue riding the momentum

Regardless of how many more opportunities the 19-year-old Lethbridge, Alta., native Sargent may have to collect more Canada West titles or challenge for medals at nationals in the coming years, the expectation for his team in his sophomore season couldn’t be more clear.

“Our first goal as a team this year is first win Canada West (CW) and then, secondly, win nationals,” said Sargent, whose freshman season consisted of a CW title win over Trinity Western and bowing out to McMaster in the bronze-medal game at nationals. “That’s our goal going into … every season. We want to be the best in the country when it’s all said and done.”

One young Golden Bear that has reached the top of the mountain is the 22-year-old Heslinga, who was named to the 2022 U Sports men’s volleyball championship all-star team in his freshman season after Alberta claimed its ninth national title in program history — just one off the record shared by Manitoba and Winnipeg.

WATCH | Alberta wins 2022 men’s volleyball nationals:

U SPORTS Men’s Volleyball National Championship gold medal gameWatch the Trinity Western Spartans battle the Alberta Golden Bears in the men’s gold medal game of the U Sports Volleyball National Championship.

The Orangeville, Ont., native was an impact starter at Alberta from day one, forming an instant and deadly connection with fifth-year setter Max Elgert with 2022 championship MVP Jordan Canham dominating as the other outside hitter.

“Max was very easygoing, and I felt like that was very helpful for me,” said Heslinga, who led Alberta with 348 kills in his first year, while the graduating Elgert — who now plays professionally in Germany — racked up an astounding 1,114 assists.

“We just formed a nice connection throughout practice and as the year went on, and I felt like our pipe [attack] patterns were really, really good. He was just a very reliable setter and his personality I felt suited what we needed for the team, and our success.”

While Sargent didn’t quite get the role that Heslinga did in his rookie season, he had one of his most well-rounded performances in the CW final, racking up seven kills, five digs and four service aces in the victory over the eventual national champion Spartans.

He also got to learn behind the best in the business in Canham, who earned U Sports men’s volleyball player of the year honours in 2022-23 before heading overseas to play professionally in Turkey.

“Jordan was one of if not the biggest influences that I had my first year,” Sargent said. “He showed me the ropes through school, as he and I are actually in the same program. He helped me out with classes where I needed and on the volleyball court, he honestly just told me to relax.”

Only in his second season with the Golden Bears, Jacob Sargent (13) has taken on a leadership role with the team following the departure of U Sports men’s volleyball player of the year, Jordan Canham. (Connor Howe/University of Alberta Golden Bears)Captain CanadaWhile both Heslinga and Sargent are dominating this season for the 13-5 Golden Bears, with the former leading the nation in kills at 288 and latter sitting 19th with 174, a huge reason why they’re experienced beyond their years has been the roles they’ve taken on with various Canadian national teams.

Heslinga was named MVP of the Men’s Senior Pan American Volleyball Cup in Mexico in August after helping guide Canada to its first gold medal at the competition, then just weeks later captained Canada to a silver medal at the NORCECA Final Six tournament in Edmonton in front of friends and Golden Bears teammates in the crowd.

Isaac Heslinga (24) in action for Canada during the Men’s Senior Pan American Volleyball Cup in Mexico in August, where he won gold and was named the MVP of the tournament. (Courtesy of the University of Alberta)”We had to adjust quickly [in Edmonton to] … the different personalities that we weren’t familiar with,” said Heslinga of the Final Six squad made up from NextGen players that represented Canada in Mexico as well as the junior Canadian team that represented Canada at the U21 world championships in July. “For me, it was … making sure that I was supportive of the guys and getting to know them as well as I didn’t know a couple of them.

“It’s not too often that you form a team just a couple of days beforehand and then play an international competition. I wasn’t very stressed about it, I kind of just took it [in stride].”

WATCH | Canada takes silver at NORCECA men’s Final 6 in Edmonton:

U.S. wins gold as Canada settles for silver at NORCECA Pan American Cup Men’s Final SixThe United States swept Canada 25-21, 25-14, 25-16 in the NORCECA Pan American Cup Men’s Final Six gold-medal game in Edmonton.

Sargent was one of the players that Heslinga already had familiarity with on that Final Six Canadian team, adding a silver to the pair of bronze medals that he won at the U21 Pan American Cup in Cuba in both 2022 and 2023.

The teenager also got his own chance to captain a national team when he led Canada at the U21 world championships in Bahrain, where Canada went 5-3 and finished 11th.

Canadian captain Jacob Sargent (13) in action against India at the U21 world championships in Bahrain. (Courtesy of the University of Alberta Golden Bears)”When the coaches pulled me aside and said that I was named captain of that team, I was kind of taken aback but I knew that I could take on the role just because of how my parents brought me up,” said Sargent, who said he didn’t have any high expectations and was just hoping to make the team during tryouts. “They always wanted me to be a leader rather than a follower. So I think I stepped into that role rather quickly.”

Now with both back in the fold and locked in to close out the Golden Bears’s CW season, the pair assuredly will have their team focused on another medal bid at the 2024 nationals in Kingston, Ont., in March (streamed live on CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem), with a bright future ahead for each of them at Alberta on the horizon.

MEN’S VOLLEYBALL 🏐 Classements U SPORTS Rankings: @VertetOr 1⃣#ChaseTheGlory | #ViserHaut@CanadaWest | @OUAsport | @RSEQ1

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—@USPORTScaAround the U Sports world The Guelph Gryphons men’s hockey team took down the Lakehead Thunderwolves 5-1 in its annual Frosty Mug game on Thursday. Tanner Wickware made 34 saves in the win while the Gryphons’ offence was opportunistic with five goals on just 14 shots.
  UNB men’s hockey head coach Gardiner MacDougall picked up his 600th career U Sports win in a 7-1 victory over UPEI. In his 24th season with the Reds, MacDougall has helped guide his team to a perfect 24-0-0 start. Incredible👏👏

We are lucky to have him @UNB and REDS fans‼️ pic.twitter.com/Ak4zENncWF


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