The University of Alberta Pandas volleyball team is once again hosting their annual New Years’ Classic tournament, this time from January 4-6, 2013 at the Saville Community Sports Centre. The Pandas, currently ranked No.3 in CIS, have invited the Universities of Calgary, Saskatchewan and Regina, as well as Mount Royal University and the National Institute of Fitness and Sports (NIFS) from Kanoya, Japan to compete in the 2013 edition.
The National Institute of Fitness and Sports (NIFS) is a national university in Kanoya, Kagoshima, Japan, that was founded in 1981. It is the only national physical education university in Japan, and it boasts world-class facilities on its vast campus. Four NIFS alumni participated in the swimming and volleyball events in the Beijing Olympics, including Athens Olympics swimming gold medalist Ai Shibata, and the NIFS women’s volleyball team is a perennial top eight team in the Japanese league.
Alberta, which owns a 10-2 record and is the defending Canada West champion, will play NIFS on Sunday, January 6th at 1:00 pm. The Pandas will also play Mount Royal on Friday, January 4th at 7:30 pm and Calgary on Saturday at 7:30 pm. The NIFS team will see action against Regina (Friday – 6:00 pm) and Saskatchewan (Saturday – 6:00 pm) before taking on the Pandas.
Full Tournament Schedule - http://www.bears.ualberta.ca/Teams/PandasVolleyball/~/media/Athletics/PandasVolleyball/NewYearsClassic/2013NewYearsClassicPVBSked.pdf
Not only will the tournament serve as an opportunity to shake off the Christmas break rust, the last Canada West action was December 1, 2012, but it is also an opportunity for teams to play international competition, which often plays a very different style of volleyball than Canadian teams. And for the Pandas, it’s also another opportunity to continue building their relationship with Japan.
Earlier this year the Pandas head coach Laurie Eisler, along with 16 Pandas, embarked on a trip to Japan for a whirlwind tour that included stays at two universities in Tokyo, and training time with a professional women’s volleyball team.
The relationship began in the 1990s when Eisler was with the University of Saskatchewan as both a player and coach. Mark Tennant, Saskatchewan’s coach at the time and Laurie’s mentor, had brought Japanese university teams to Canada as part of a Western Canadian tour. When Eisler became the Pandas volleyball head coach in 1991, she continued the work her mentor had done, by inviting Japanese teams to Edmonton, or taking her University of Alberta team to Japan. The trip earlier this year was the third trip to Japan the Pandas’ program has made since Eisler began as coach. They made their inaugural trip in 1994, and then returned in 2002, and the University of Tsukuba participated in the Pandas’ New Years’ Classic tournament in 2012.
“The Japanese teams have played an integral role in the development of our program over the years,” said three-time coach of the year Eisler. “Not only have we become better volleyball players and teams through our experiences training and competing with the Japanese, but it has enriched our lives as well. Our student-athletes have had the opportunity to develop relationships with student-athletes on the other side of the world who live parallel lives to ours. While the cultures are very different, we share a love of sport and the challenges of combining the pursuit of high performance sport and academics. Personally, I count several of the Japanese coaches who I have had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with over the years as some of my key mentors in the sport. They have been incredibly open in their sharing of knowledge and methods that have helped them to consistently develop great players and teams over the years.”
“We will continue to travel to Japan, and host Japanese teams when the opportunity arises,” noted Eisler. It's not something that we can do every year, but my hope is that every Panda will be able to have this travel experience at least once during their career. Our hope is that the New Year's Classic will continue to grow and enable us to showcase the competition between the visiting Japanese teams and Canadian teams.”
The Pandas, owners of a 2012 CIS silver medal, return to Canada West action on the January 11-12, 2013 weekend they travel to Calgary to take on the Dinos.