Barnes named national MVP
It wasn’t too long ago that Ryley Barnes was suiting up for volleyball with the Racette Raiders, and on March 1, the 20-year-old was named Canadian Interuniversity Sport volleyball MVP after claiming the CIS title with the University of Alberta Golden Bears.
Barnes made a point of saying that while the MVP award is a great achievement, it pales in comparison to winning CIS championship with the Golden Bears, as his team defeated the Western Mustangs in straight sets to claim the title of national champions.
“Obviously it feels great to be recognized for individual achievements but being a CIS champion is something that I will always remember,” he said. “Playing with such a great team and under such a great coaching staff is what is going to stick with me for the rest of my life.”
Golden Bears Coach Terry Danyluk pointed out that Barnes hit with a kill percentage of over 60 at the CIS championships, which is he said is a very high number.
“Usually we’re looking at 50 per cent as a very good number, he hit over 60, he was our leading point getter for the entire tournament, and he’s one of our primary passers,” said Danyluk, adding Barnes is a leader on and off the court. “He does a lot for us on the court, and I think he does a lot off the court as well. He’s outgoing, he’s got a great sense of humour . . . he brings a lot of things, not just his volleyball skills, he brings a lot of extra things to the team with his presence.”
Barnes added the Golden Bears entered the CIS championships hot off a Canada West championship victory, which did wonders for his team’s confidence.
“After winning the Canada West championship the weekend prior, we had a ton of confidence going into the national tournament and we rode that wave throughout the whole championship,” he said. “We knew that we had to play our best volleyball at the end of the season and that's what we did. Everyone on the team knew their role and nobody tried to do too much, which helped us execute so well at nationals.”
Danyluk first saw Barnes exhibit his volleyball skills while he was playing in St. Paul in Grade 11, and said he knew Barnes had potential from the get-go.
“I saw Ryley when he was still living in St. Paul back when he was in Grade 11. At that point I was really interested in him because of his potential as an athlete and his size. Through the next few years of the recruiting process we convinced him to come join us,” said Danyluk, adding that Barnes is incredibly valuable to the team as an outside hitter. “He’s got good size, he’s one of our primary serve receivers and he’s got a really good jump serve. So he’s a big point scorer for Golden Bears volleyball, it’s one of the things that we look to him for, but he’s also a good energy guy. He’s one of the guys that does a lot of the ‘rah-rah’ stuff in our warm ups, and he brings a good personality to the game.”
Barnes said he embraces his multi-faceted role on the team, as he feels the Golden Bears have become a “second family” in his life.
“We were such a tight-knit group off the court this year that it made things really easy on the court,” he said. “We all knew each others' strengths and weaknesses and we were able to push each other very hard in practice even if it meant that we were getting under each others' skin a little bit, because that was all over once practice was finished.”
The young volleyball star has now transferred into a business program at the University of Alberta, and said he is excited to continue his career with the Golden Bears next season, with the long-term goal of playing international volleyball.
“I am extremely excited moving forward to next season with the Golden Bears. We still have a great core of starters coming back for next season and some other guys that will be more than capable of filling open spots in the lineup. We are always looking to have the same result as this past season and next season will be no exception,” he said. “My long-term goals for volleyball are to play for the senior men's national team and possibly going overseas to play professionally in Europe.”
Danyluk added he is confident Barnes will achieve his long term goals, but it won’t come without even more hard work.
“He’s still got lots of room for growth. I think he’s finally finished (physically) growing. He’s going to start to fill out naturally, plus with all the physical training that the guys do he’s going to get stronger and he’s going to continue learning things in the game,” he said. “He’s still got a lot to learn. Although he was the MVP at the University Championship, which is our highest level in Canada besides the national team, he’s still a work in progress. I think he’s going to become a really great international player, but in order to do that he’s got to do some more work.”