While the Northern Chill Volleyball Club has produced, of late, a fairly steady stream of talent that have moved on to compete with the Cambrian Golden Shield, Hayley Chisholm was not among them.
Soccer was her thing, growing up.
Born in Toronto but having moved to Sudbury at the age of one, the younger of two children in the family – Hayley has an older brother who is an aspiring musician – Chisholm suited up for some eight summers or so as a member of the Panhellenic team that was coached by Joe Persi.
Looking back, it was certainly not time that was wasted.
“I got my speed and quickness from soccer, the lateral movements, just to be able to get to a ball really fast – I got that from soccer,” she said. Even through her years at Lasalle Secondary, volleyball was simply one of the sports in the mix, always taking a back seat to soccer, with no real pull to pursue her eventual post-secondary passion on a more elite level as a member of the Chill.
“I didn’t stop competitive soccer until grade 11, and nobody ever reached out to me, so it wasn’t like club volleyball was at the top of my list,” she said. “I wasn’t planning on doing anything, sports-wise, after high school.”
But after two years of academic searching, with university stops at both Laurentian and York, Chisholm opted to attend Cambrian College. Yet it was only at the behest of fellow Lancer Stacy Carter, a setter at the time with the Golden Shield, that the 5’9” naturally athletic talent consented to attending tryouts.
“It was completely different when I got to college,” said Chisholm. “It was three years out, I didn’t remember any of the skills I learned in high school. I was athletic, so we just built from there. They taught me from fresh.”
The early days were certainly not smooth ones, as the Cambrian coaching staff struggled to find the proper fit for their still-raw newcomer. “When I came to Cambrian, he (coach Dale Beausoleil) put me at middle, and I’m not a middle,” said Chisholm with a laugh.
“I played three games as a middle and he moved me to right side, and that’s when everything started happening. I could do combos, I could hit a ball better, I could block better.” Garnering some much needed confidence, Chisholm would complete her freshman season at right side, taking another quantum leap forward again in year two with the move to left side.
“When I moved to left side, it was all about my passing,” she said. “I had never passed before, and they plugged me in at the left side position, where that’s all you do is pass. You can’t run an offense unless you have a pass. For me, that’s the biggest part of my game that I wanted to improve.”
The same dogged tenacity that would see her through the tough times would allow Chisholm to become an increasingly important cog in the wheel of success for the Golden Shield crew. “There was never a thought of packing it in,” she said.
“You have so much competitive edge and you have so much drive in you, that you can’t quit, you can’t give up. That’s not me.” Seemingly, her attitude became infectious, as recent versions of the Cambrian’s women’s volleyball team constantly fought an uphill battle, finding themselves behind the eight ball early in the year.
“Every year, we seem to lose important players,” she stated. “We’ve always started slow, and then got strong and had to fight for a spot in the playoffs.” This was never truer than in this past season. A tough loss to the Mohawk Mountaineers, early in January, all but spelled the end of the Cambrian playoff hopes.
Chisholm was unconvinced, clinging to hope against all odds. “It’s hard, because some of the younger girls tend to look to the years ahead,” she said. “But for the girls who aren’t coming back, or the girls who have been here the longest, it’s like this fight isn’t over. We still have four weeks left and we can still win games.”
And win they did, capturing six of their final seven regular season games, in addition to a cross-over post-season victory over Georgian, in making yet another trip to the OCAA Provincials. While the real credit goes out to the young women who performed on the court, Chisholm certainly appreciated the steady presence of the person in charge.
“I love Dale,” she said. “The main thing is that he knows when to push you, and he knows when you’re having a rough go. He challenges you to be better. But when you’re sad, he’s like a big teddy bear, he’s always concerned about you. You will always remember Dale, and Dale will always remember you.”
In a column earlier this year, veteran Cambrian middle Kailey Bastien suggested that Chisholm, “as far as our goofballs, she’s our leader”. Seems only fair to offer the close friend a chance at retribution.
“Kailey and I have played together the longest, and we’ve been friends since the very beginning,” suggested Chisholm. “She is the “princess”, the queen of the team – and she knows she’s the princess. Always prim and proper, always has to look good.”
“This year, especially, she was my girl, my sidekick. I don’t think the year would have been the same without her.”