Jacob Defeo used to post an eye-popping 30-inch vertical on the volleyball court. He added weight in a growth spurt and now records a 25-inch jump from a standing position.
It’s still impressive for a 15-year-old, one of three Vernon Christian School skyscrapers ready to boost Zone 2 Thompson-Okanagan in the B.C. Summer Games starting Friday in Cowichan Valley.
Defeo, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound middle, quickly defined his game when asked about his strengths.
“Hitting and blocking, not playing back line; that’s why there are liberos (designated defensive specialists),” said Defeo, who will be joined by his high school Royals and Sky Volleyball club teammates Levi VanderDeen and Josh Hall at the Games. “I’m pretty vocal, mostly positive; sometimes it’s hard to be that way.”
Defeo, who also excels at basketball, likes the makeup of the red-jersey Zone 2 roster, coached by Steve Manuel of the UBC Okanagan Heat and Mike Smith of the Kamloops club team.
“It’s a good team,” said Defeo. “Everyone’s pretty equal, very athletic and very committed, and we have very good coaches.”
Manuel was in 2016 recognized as the Marilyn Pomfret Award (Timex) Coach of the Year in women’s volleyball, earning the award after a record-setting season for the Heat. This was his second Coach of the Year award in the CIS; he was also recognized in 2012-13 for piloting a second-year program into the postseason.
VanderDeen, a 6-foot-2, 130-pound power, has been playing alongside Defeo and Hall since Grade 7 volleyball.
“A lot of my friends are in volleyball and the three of us have been together for years,” he said. “It makes it very entertaining; we have lots of fun.”
He is also high on the moxy of the Thompson-Okanagan lineup.
“I’ve seen most of my teammates in camps. We’re a well-rounded team.”
VanderDeen, who also downhill skis and hopes to mountain bike competitively next year, brings a different skill set to Zone 2.
“I’m good at passing and I make smart plays. I’m calm; I just do my job. I want to improve my blocking. I’m usually late and I can’t guess where the ball is going.”
At 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, Hall brings major presence and brute strength to the table. He plays power and middle.
“I’ve got a lot of height and I’m a good teammate,” said Hall, who turns 15 in early September. “I try to bring my teammates up and not down. I’m pretty vocal if I have to be. I would like to improve all my basics of the game.”
A post in hoops, Hall says the Zone 2 entry will be tight despite having been rivals for years.
“We play each other in club and there are some rivalries, but the fact that we can take the best players from all the club teams, and go beyond those rivalries, makes for a good team. We’re aggressive for sure. We have one or two defensive guys and we’re pretty big at the net.”
The trio moved straight to the senior Royals last season, helping Chris Bannick’s crew finish second at provincials in Kamloops. Bannick, who teaches the trio English, socials and phys-ed, said all three hound him for the gym key year-round. They also bagged a bronze medal in the Tier 1 Division for U15 club coaches Richard and Karen Bedard with Defeo making the all-star squad.
“They’re pretty advanced in that they can play at this level,” said Bannick. “They show good sportsmanship and they just love volleyball. Each of them brings a little bit different; they’re great quality kids.”
Ben Molitwenik of the Royals was a slamdunk to make the Zone 2 team but couldn’t make the trip due to his brother’s wedding this weekend.