*This is a feature that I wrote for the Cranbrook Townsman on a member of the College of the Rockies Avalanche volleyball team.*
When she was in high school, Adriel Goodman wanted to play university basketball. Instead, she became a college volleyball star. Now, in her second and final year with the Avalanche, she has offers to play university volleyball and is looking to exit the PACWEST with a slam dunk.
“I haven’t played basketball in a while,” Adriel Goodman admits.
“The only people I can go play with are the volleyball boys, and they can all dunk. It’s fun, but I don’t really get to play like I did in high school.”
As one of the most dominant offensive players on the College of the Rockies women’s volleyball team, Goodman often looks as if she was born on a volleyball court. She’s that comfortable.
However, it’s actually a position she never envisioned herself being in.
“I didn’t think that I was going to play volleyball past high school,” says the 6’1 Avs starting outside hitter. “I wanted to, but realistically, I came from a really small school and I didn’t know if I had a whole lot of opportunity.”
For Goodman, basketball was her biggest passion, and despite going to a 200-person high school in the tiny town of Nakusp, BC, going further in the sport seemed like a genuine possibility.
“Our basketball team made provincials twice while I was in high school, which was unheard of,” she says. “Basketball is my favourite. I loved it [and] there was a girl on my basketball team who went to TRU (Thompson Rivers University), so she had an ‘in’ with the coach and she said ‘I’ll talk you up to him and we’ll see what we can do.’”
Fate, however, carried Goodman in a different direction. When she was in 11th grade, she played in a volleyball game that was reffed by Andrew Zurrin, the then-coach of the Avs women’s team.
“[Zurrin] stayed in touch with my dad, who was my [high school] coach at the time,” she says. “And they were talking towards the end of my Grade 11 year, and they had more or less offered me a spot with [the Avs].
“Until then, I had never considered the College of the Rockies, [but] it was really exciting.”
Taking advantage of the opportunity, Goodman hung up her basketball shoes and her keeper gloves — Goodman was also soccer goalie, a sport she doesn’t do much anymore either — and went head first into volleyball.
The transition to college and a higher level of volleyball was smooth and Goodman felt nothing but excitement in coming to COTR.
“I’m the oldest of three girls, so I didn’t have any siblings who had gone to college before me, so I had no idea what to expect,” she says, explaining that being a part of a team was a huge help. “It was kind of like I was guaranteed 15 friends right away. I had people I knew, I wasn’t going to walk in and not talk to anybody.
“It was nice to know that I had that safety net there right away and all the girls were great.”
She also didn’t have the pressure of having to be an elite player right away, as she was assured first years primarily train to play in their second year.
“I came in at the bottom of the totem pole and I learned really fast because you know, you get the bell curve right off the bat,” she says. “But by the second semester, I was keeping up with the girls and it wasn’t a huge problem.”
Goodman’s biggest obstacle? Calculus.
As an engineering student, Goodman immediately faced a tough course load on top of her athletic career and had a little trouble managing it all in the beginning.
“We didn’t get to take Calculus in Grade 12 [at my high school] so that was rough coming here,” she laughs. “Coming into first year Calculus, after never having taken it before, that was kind of a shocker. Everything else has been quite smooth though.”
On the volleyball court, her progress also got a quick shot in the arm in the second half of last season.
“Our starting power hitter blew out her knee and we didn’t have anybody else,” she says on her sudden promotion to a starting player. “So, I got thrown in, right off the bat, in second semester, but the team was super helpful.“
“We won that weekend and so I started for the rest of the year because we didn’t have another power. It forced me to get better quickly. My progression was in leaps and bounds, because it had to be, it was sort of like, thrust upon me.”
Despite her relative youth and inexperience, Goodman rose to the occasion and became a key member of the Avs offence. She was so good, in fact, that the team won the Provincial championship, unprecedented not only for the team, but for her as well.
“I’d actually never won something like that before,” she says. “You know, I’d won tournaments and junior playoffs and stuff like that, but I’d never won anything of that consequence.
“When we got to provincials, it was kind of surreal up until the last set. It was kind of like riding on a high of emotions. I don’t think I’d ever been through something like that before. It was really exciting and I want to do it again.”
This year, as a regular member of the starting rotation, Goodman has taken her game to another level. She frequently leads the team in kills, picks up steady dig totals, and was even named the PACWEST’s ‘Female Volleyball Athlete of the Week’ after an amazing performance against the VIU Mariners in Week 8.
“This year there is a little more confidence,” she says on improvements to her own game. “We won last year and I’m starting, so somebody believes in me. It’s kind of taken the negative pressure off and introduced a more productive pressure that pushes me to do better, without having to worry all the time that I’m going to mess up and let the team down.
“As a team, we gelled really fast this year. There’s a lot of support, and obviously this means our passing is better, which means our setting is better, which puts me in a better position to kill it.”
And kill it she has. While Goodman is still focused on this season and another shot at a Provincial and maybe even a National title, she’s already started to make plans for next year.
“I’ve got a couple of offers to play in the CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport, recently rebranded as U-Sports) and I would like to,” she says. “Right now, it’s just academics [that needs to be sorted out]. It’s about transferring into an Engineering program. That’s the turning point right now.”
Although she mentions the University of British Columbia and the University of Calgary as potential homes, nothing’s final yet.
And while the Avs are near the bottom of the PACWEST standings, that isn’t final yet either. They should make Provincials in Nanaimo, and as Goodman knows from last year, anything can happen.
“It’s really exciting to see that [if] we could do it when we were in sixth place… can we do it if we come in fourth or third,” Goodman speculates. “It’s always nice to see us doing better than we were last year, considering we won last year.”
After a tough 0-4 road trip in the Lower Mainland, the Avs have a perfect opportunity to get back on track against the seventh place, 3-17, Columbia Bible College Bearcats at home this weekend.
If they win, it will no doubt be in large part to Adriel Goodman. She may not be able to slam dunk, but when it comes to killing a volleyball, she can ball with the best of them.