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Wesmen freshman earns spot on Team Canada

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Casey Schouten wasn’t sure whether he should bother attending the selection camp for the national junior men’s volleyball team. It looks like he made the right decision.

"I was debating it the whole time," said the East St. Paul resident, who completed his first season with the University of Winnipeg Wesmen this spring. "The competition is very strong, and I wasn’t sure it was right for me at the time."

The 6-foot-5 Miles Madonell graduate went to the camp in Gatineau, Que., with nothing to lose and came home last week with a spot on the 14-man roster that will represent Canada at the FIVB World Junior Championship in Turkey this August.

"It’s wicked," was Schouten’s immediate reaction. "I thought I played the best that I could, but (when meeting with coaches at the end of the camp) I wasn’t sure if I had made it or not. I came out of the room with a smile on my face."

Schouten will be in Winnipeg for six weeks before rejoining the team for training in Gatineau and Hamilton for three weeks. Then it’s off to Costa Rica for the U21 Pan Am Cup in mid-July, followed by three more weeks of training leading up to the worlds.

"It’s really amazing to me," Schouten said. "It’s been one of my huge goals to put the Canadian flag on my chest and represent my country. It hasn’t even hit me yet."

One of the six returning players from last year’s team is another Winnipegger, Jarrid Ireland, who attends UBC.

When Schouten first arrived in Gatineau, he felt he had as good a chance as anyone to earn a spot on Team Canada. He made it his mission to show the coaches he was the hardest-working athlete at the 39-player camp.

Schouten said he likely wouldn’t have made the national team without the improvement he achieved under Wesmen coach Larry McKay, who put him in the starting lineup for every game of his freshman season.

"It’s really tough for a first-year player to start and play the amount I did," Schouten said. "A lot of that is attributed to the coaches and teammates that helped me develop. It was a fun season, and I learned a lot."

Now the tables are turned. Schouten expects his international experience this summer to make him an even bigger contributor to the Wesmen when he arrives back at school in the fall.

"I talked to Larry and he was super excited and happy for me," he said. "He sent me a motivational email while I was (in Gatineau) that made me think about a lot of things, and he’s definitely looking for an even better player to come back to the team next year."

avi.saper@canstarnews.com

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