Where Are They Now: 2019-20 playoff team members Jorvina, Gilfillan and Schubert all went pro overseas

Where Are They Now: 2019-20 playoff team members Jorvina, Gilfillan and Schubert all went pro overseas

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics 

EDMONTON – "I feel like I've lived 10 lives already since I've graduated from MacEwan," wrote former Griffins women's volleyball libero Rachel Jorvina in an e-mail from the Philippines, where she plays professionally.

The same could be said for her 2019-20 MacEwan teammates Haley Gilfillan and Kylie Schubert, who have both grown exponentially since launching pro careers in Europe following their triumphant final moments in Maroon four years ago when they led the Griffins into the Canada West playoffs for the first time.

All three enjoyed watching the Griffins' resurgence as they qualified for the 2023-24 post-season – their first playoff berth since 2020 – losing out in a Canada West quarter-final series to UFV last weekend.

"Honestly, it's been so fun to watch this team go to battle this year," wrote Schubert in an e-mail interview. "Truly an incredibly talented group of young female athletes."

There were certainly some similarities to the 2019-20 group, who finished higher in the standings (third, compared to sixth), but also went out in the first round, dropping a quarter-final series to Thompson Rivers University. 

Despite the results, both teams had the togetherness, talent and drive that had them among the top teams in the conference in their respective years.

"The thing that I remember most from the 2019-20 season was just the connection on and off the court that us girls had," wrote Gilfillan in an e-mail. "I have never played with a group of girls who got along so well and consistently pushed and challenged each other to be better. 

"Honestly, I would still consider majority of those girls my closest friends and I see them on the regular (when I'm back in Canada, of course)."

Haley Gilfillan was the first Griffins player to be named to the Canada West first all-star team and has since launched a pro career in Europe that has her currently playing in the French first division (Robert Antoniuk photo).

Gilfillan, who was the first Griffins player to make the Canada West first all-star team (2019-20), currently plays pro for Levallois Paris Saint Cloud in the French first division. The middle blocker has taken her game to another level, playing on one of the best teams in Europe.

"The level of volleyball is higher than I've ever played at, and it is definitely challenging me as a player, but I continue to learn and grow as an athlete and teammate," she wrote.

Levallois Paris St. Cloud is not only challenging for their league title, they've also competed in the CEV (Championship of European Volleyball) this season, playing top teams from Croatia, Montenegro, Hungary, Turkey and Italy. 

It's been an incredible opportunity for Gilfillan, who played her first pro season for a team in Hungary in 2022-23 before moving to Paris.

"I would say I'm almost a completely different player than I was at MacEwan," said Gilfillan. "Volleyball at the professional level is much more aggressive, faster and a more technical game than it is in university. This has obviously come with a learning curve, but to see my progression as an athlete is pretty amazing. 

"I think I have improved a lot yet there is still so much more for me to achieve, which is honestly really exciting."

Both Gilfillan and Schubert initially moved overseas after graduating from MacEwan, playing for Durham University in England, which helped them get acclimated to European play. They helped Durham win two championships – the BUCS League title and Volleyball England NVL.

Schubert, who holds the distinction of being the first Griffins athlete to win a U SPORTS player of the week honour, played in France after that with Volley Club La Fere before also playing pro in Luxembourg for Gym Volley.

"It's been such a cool and unexpected experience," wrote the setter. "A major highlight has got to be all the incredible people you meet. It's been such a gift to create lasting friendships with people from all over the world."

Kylie Schubert has played volleyball in England, France and Luxembourg since her last season at MacEwan in 2019-20 when she became the first Griffin named as a U SPORTS athlete of the week (Robert Antoniuk photo).

It's also been a challenging journey.

"You get forced out of your comfort zone right away," wrote Schubert. "You deal with a different style of play, different style of communication, different schedule, different opponents, different language. Everything is different. But you learn how to adapt on the fly – how to problem solve quickly. 

"I'm extremely grateful to have the opportunity to play in three different countries in three years, as your knowledge of the game just expands wider than you ever would have thought." 

Jorvina, who holds a Canada West record that might never be beat when she had 63 digs in a match at Winnipeg in 2020 (17 more than second place on the conference's all-time list), moved to Manila, Philippines in July 2022.

Her pro debut came with the Akari Power Chargers and now she's with the NXLED Chameleons.

"A major highlight for me has definitely been having the chance to play with athletes that I've only ever seen on TV or online," she wrote. "Specifically, I had the amazing opportunity to play alongside Olympic volleyball legend Prisilla Rivera in my first season of pro – which definitely was a dream come true for me.

"Another highlight for me also is just having the chance to really get in touch with my roots and culture and seeing all the hidden gems and everyday life of the Philippines."

Libero Rachel Jorvina, who holds the Canada West record for most digs in a match (63 in a game at Winnipeg in 2020), has played pro in the Philippines the last two seasons (David Larkins photo).

Jorvina noted while her time at MacEwan helped prepare her for the experience, she had to grow in many areas of her life in order to make the transition from student-athlete to pro.

"While I'm still learning and re-learning lessons every day about the game and myself, I feel like my time as a Griffin really provided me with a solid foundation on how I want to conduct myself as a professional athlete and gives me a lot of courage to face new challenges each day," she wrote. "I also have to attribute a large part of my growth to the people who have continuously supported me back home, and even new friends and supporters here in the Philippines."

Jorvina's goal is to continue playing professionally as long as she's able to.

"I mean, I definitely would like to keep playing professionally for at least a couple more years," she wrote. "My goal really is to keep growing in the sport for as long as time permits me. 

"Maybe I'll keep going until the magical day when Kylie, Gilf and I reunite on the same team!"

In spirit they will always have that team, that 2019-20 squad that included so many other key pieces like Lauren Holmes, Mckenna Stevenson, Hailey Cornelis, Carly Weber and others, including current graduating seniors Mariah Bereziuk and Sarah McGee, who were rookies then.

"I love all the behind-the-scenes memories, like the pre-game DJ sets, or the crazy locker-room antics, the iconic theme Thursday outfits that are still (barely) in one piece today, and everything else in-between," wrote Jorvina. "I remember we were all so focused on our goal of making playoffs, and we put in the work. We trusted one another, and we just somehow knew we could do it. I'm extremely proud to be a part of a team that (accomplished) a lot of firsts for the MacEwan women's volleyball program."

Added Schubert: "I love that team. Seriously, such an amazing group. My favourite people. Still so proud to have been a part of that squad. I'm so lucky to still get to call them my close friends."