Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Born in the Philippines, Rachel Jorvina was just a couple of months old when her family immigrated to Canada.
The MacEwan Griffins libero loves to tell the story how her parents didn't have a car seat and flew here with her in a basket.
More than two decades later, their precious cargo has grown into one of the best volleyball players in Western Canada.
Heading into her fourth season with the Griffins, Jorvina will lead MacEwan into its home-opening weekend vs. Regina on Friday (6 p.m.) and Saturday (5 p.m., both in David Atkinson Gym and on Canada West TV presented by Co-op).
"Since her first year, she's always answered the bell whenever she's been called," said Griffins head coach Ken Briggs. "And she's evolved now. She's got experience now. She's in her fourth year and is a lot more comfortable on the court.
"She's always had incredible speed. Defensively, there's never been any hesitation with her. She was really well coached in club and came from a really good school – Jasper Place – so she's just had really good training."
All traits that make her the perfect choice as the Griffins' new starting libero, following in a long line of strong players at the position in program history which includes recent graduates Zoe Cronin and Karly Edgar, and, further back, two-time ACAC all-star Michelle Barry (2006-08).
Jorvina is already leading the way on the court for the Griffins and was one of the big reasons they pushed a strong Mount Royal University Cougars squad to five sets on the opening night of the season last Friday.
"She's always had the quickness, etc.," explained Briggs. "What she's had to learn now is staying disciplined and playing in a system, which is a big difference at this level. And serve-receive is such a huge part of the women's game – that's the hardest thing to learn. She's had to develop with that because she's had to learn to play at this speed and pace."
Jorvina saw some time in the starting role in 2018-19 when fifth-year senior Zoe Cronin missed a chunk of the season with an injury, but that felt like getting thrown into the fire. If anything, though, it was something she needed to go through to be ready to lead in 2019-20.
"I have a newfound confidence coming in that I have a responsibility to lead the team in defence and serve-receive and take control of that job," she said. "It's pretty intimidating though, because now I feel like I have to look out and be a guide for the younger liberoes, but it's been really rewarding just to see them being able to make changes that I wasn't able to when I was younger."
Jorvina's always been about team success and is willing to put her body on the line for it – the gritty game that great liberoes need to have in order to swing a match's momentum through defence.
"Pretty much almost sacrificing my body for every ball and just being willing to be that person that my teammates can look at me and know I'm going to be willing to run into walls and jump over barriers for them so they can get that big kill," described Jorvina of what she's willing to do for the team. "It's not about who's getting the glory in this, it's about being all in it for every person. Whether it's me getting a huge dig or somebody getting a huge kill, it's knowing that person next to you is going to lay it all out on the floor so they can better the ball after you just touched it."
Details such as that matter even more for the Griffins this season after they missed the playoffs by the slimmest of margins in 2018-19, losing a three-way tiebreaker for the final two post-season spots on sets won vs. sets lost.
"I think most of us really just let it fire us up," said Jorvina of the heartbreak last February. "Knowing that you're (short by) one set and it doesn't seem like a big thing at the beginning of the season, but when it comes down to it, it's like that one set, that one thing we could have made a change on that could have been the difference in us making playoffs for the first time. We really use it to fire us up in every practice.
"We have to remind ourselves that that shank in practice might not affect us now, but it will affect us in the long run, so we have to be conscious of every touch that we make and make everything count."
That means after an 0-2 start, they'll be hungry this weekend.
"Our first weekend wasn't amazing, but we learned a lot and we're going to take what we learned into this weekend and the rest of the season," said Jorvina. "We're just making active changes, but I think this weekend will really set the tone of the team that we want to be."