Sky’s the limit for Surinx
High-flying high-school standout a generational volleyball talent
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/06/2022 (243 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Generational talent is an overused term to describe many outstanding athletes. It’s probably not an overstatement in the case of Raya Surinx.
The Grade 12 student at J.H. Bruns Collegiate has already been crowned the top female high school volleyball player in Manitoba and, unquestionably, the province’s top university recruit.
And, if not for a cruel twist, the 17-year-old would probably be one of the youngest players suiting up for Canada’s U21 team at the Pan American Cup currently underway in Mexico.
A positive COVID-19 test at the national team training camp in Edmonton forced Surinx into isolation for five days and a subsequent positive PCR test dashed any hopes she would travel with Team Canada.
“I just want to keep trying out and, hopefully, be able to make national team if I can and keep improving my skill set,” Surinx said Thursday, feeling healthy five days after returning home from the U21 camp. “I think that’s one of my biggest goals right now is I want to try out again next year. Work on what I can and, if I don’t make it, I’ll probably try out again.”
In December, a determined Surinx led fourth-seeded J.H. Bruns to the first AAAA varsity girls volleyball title in school history.
Broncos head coach Kris Funk downplayed the impact he had on the star player’s development.
“She was the best already,” said Funk. “She was so much more physical than everybody else. She worked harder than everybody else… She would have probably been our best player in Grade 10 on our varsity team. I finally got to see her practise this year and I had no idea how hard she worked in practice — all the time. I had to limit her a little bit because I thought she’s gonna hurt herself.”
A diligent work ethic is an important part of Surinx’s game but her physical skills — she’s a 6-0 left side who owns a vertical leap in excess of 30 inches — makes her stand out. The combination of leaping ability, power and shot-making is hard to match.
Funk, who played and coached at the university level, insists Surinx’s potential is vast. During the pandemic shutdown of her Grade 11 season, she committed to play at the University of Manitoba.
“She could be the best player in the country,” said Funk. “U Sports athlete of the year. National team. Pro.”
Bisons head coach Ken Bentley beat out recruiting bids from Canada West universities such as Winnipeg and Alberta. Interest from a number of NCAA Division I schools came after Surinx had already commited to the U of M.
“We saw her as a 15-year-old and she had a pretty high top end in terms of where she could go with her game,” said Bentley. “She got a shot to play with the U21 team and she’s in the athlete identification pool for the national program, which is where she should be. She’s just made really steady progress with her game.”
Funk raves about Surinx’s drive and keen attention to detail.
“I’m not kidding — I had to keep her out of (practice) drills because we wanted to keep her fresh and we thought she might break her neck by jumping into the stands or something — chasing balls in practice. She works hard,” he said.
Surinx seems to have hardly skipped a beat during the pandemic shutdown.
“She’s certainly not scared of the work and obviously that’s a relief to me because when you see a talented kid, you want them to realize their full potential,” said Bentley. “And not every kid does in every sport, right?”
Surinx’s arrival at the U of M coincides with the arrival of a talented trio of first-year players, Kendra Andjelic, Andi Almonte and Eve Catojo.
All four are also members of the provincial U19 team that will participate at the Canada Cup tournament in Calgary (July 21-24) and the Canada Summer Games in Ontario’s Niagara Region (Aug. 16-21). Bentley expects this group to serve as the foundation for the squad when Manitoba hosts the U Sports women’s championship in 2025.
“Other parts of her game are good — she’s a really good server and her net play, generally speaking, is strong — but her hitting is clearly her biggest asset at the moment,” said Bentley. “She’s just got such a pure swing. She never really miss-hits the ball, always finds a way to hit it, which is a really wonderful attribute that doesn’t come naturally to a lot of players.”
Going to school close to her home in Southdale feels right for the young athlete.
“Although people say (Bentley’s) a tough coach, I think that’s exactly what I like,” said Surinx. “I need somebody who knows what they want from us, right? And gives me the corrections. I need that and then the group of girls (we have) just seems so nice.”
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.