Tuesday, July 23, 2024

After OFSAA volleyball gold & national bronze, NCAA & Team Canada are Élodie Lalonde’s next targets

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By Mitchell Fox

She’s conquered Ontario and she’s earned a Canadian podium this year already, and now Élodie Lalonde is set to take her volleyball skills south to compete for High Point University in the NCAA.

“I cannot wait,” smiles Lalonde, whose last official day of high school at Béatrice-Desloges is tomorrow. “Obviously I’m a bit nervous, but, all in all, I think it’s going to be a great experience for me.”

Élodie Lalonde. Photo provided

Lalonde has been playing the sport since the sixth grade, when she and a friend decided to attend summer volleyball camps. Six years later, the 17-year-old is one of Canada’s top young volleyball talents, with a long list of feats at the provincial and national levels to her credit.

Lalonde is set to move to North Carolina in July to join the High Point Panthers’ Div. 1 women’s volleyball program, which earned a 23-8 record last season before falling to the #10 seed University of Tennessee in the NCAA Tournament.

That won’t be the first time she moves for a volleyball-related reason. Lalonde has made numerous appearances around Canada with provincial teams and her Maverick Volleyball Club, and she recently lived in Richmond, B.C. for four months as part of Volleyball Canada’s National Excellence Program.

“Having all those different experiences is a really big advantage,” she highlights. “Getting to play on a bunch of different teams helps me adjust to different players or coaches, different atmospheres and different ways of playing.”

Lalonde had previously spent a month in Calgary at an under-19 national team training camp at the conclusion of her 16U club season.

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That same summer, she played for Team Ontario in both beach and indoor volleyball, and then in June 2023, she participated in the Biosteel All-Canadian Game, a showcase for the best young volleyball players in the country.

Élodie Lalonde. Photo provided

There, a fellow Canadian who was playing at High Point, Anna Wilson of Burlington, took videos of Lalonde and sent them to her coach, Ryan Meek. Some emails and a call a week later, followed by several Meek visits, led to an invitation for Lalonde to visit the school outside Greensboro.

“I went to visit the university and absolutely fell in love,” recounts Lalonde, who accepted an offer for a full scholarship on her way home.

The beautiful campus, a competitive environment, a strong team and the chance to study exercise science were a winning combination, she notes.

“Not a lot of people get to have an experience like that. I’m super grateful, and super excited,” Lalonde adds. “It will for sure be an adjustment to play with such good players and on a university roster, but I feel like because of my NEP experience, adjusting to things will be easier.”

The National Excellence Program brought together 15 top female players in Canada for four months of training out of the Richmond Olympic Oval sports centre, including work with Team Canada women’s coach Shannon Winzer.

“It’s a big, life-changing experience,” reflects Lalonde, who lived with a billet family in fall 2023 while training daily and taking online courses. “I felt like I was being really hard on myself because I wasn’t adapting as fast as I wanted to, but I learned to be easy on myself and just go with the flow.”

Élodie Lalonde. Photo: @elodie.lalonde Instagram

Once back in Ottawa, Lalonde helped ignite special seasons for both her school and club teams in her senior year. After earning silver last year, her Béatrice-Desloges Bulldogs captured the Orleans school’s first-ever OFSAA provincial title in any sport when they captured the ‘AA’ girls’ volleyball championship in Sydenham.

“That’s probably my best memory,” signals the 6’2″ outside hitter. “[We] come back to school after the tournament and everyone’s just like, ‘Wow. You guys are good. You guys really did that.’”

2024 OFSAA ‘AA’ girls’ volleyball-champion Béatrice-Desloges Bulldogs. File photo

Lalonde’s club team, the Maverick Broncos, also made their mark this year. After a letdown at the provincial tournament, the Mavs bounced back at May’s Canadian 18U championships in Edmonton, winning all of their games on their second day to get into the quarterfinals. They finished with the bronze medal at a competition featuring 152 of Canada’s top teams.

“That was such a fun experience. Such a good way to end my club career,” Lalonde underlines.

18U national bronze-medallist Ottawa Maverick Broncos girls’ volleyball team. Photo: @elodie.lalonde Instagram

Alongside Annabelle Denomme (Central Connecticut State, sociology) and Eden Bristow (Marist College, criminal justice), Lalonde is one of three Maverick Broncos who are set to join NCAA Div. 1 schools, while Skylar Rokov (Greensboro College, commerce) will be nearby with her Div. 3 team.

There are many more Mavs players set to play university volleyball in Canada, including Juliette Servant Dugas (Chicoutimi, engineering), Mia Ladd (Moncton, English/education), Charley McDonald (Acadia, biology) and Jérémie Rainville, who will join the Sherbrooke Vert et Or alongside Cégep de Sherbrooke product Olivier Ducharme, a 2020 Mavs/Louis-Riel high school grad.

“I think when you have an environment like [we have], and when you have high achievers around you, you can’t help but be successful in attaining the goal that you want,” says Maverick Broncos coach Judi Shum-Mousseau.

Some players just have the personality to excel in big moments, she adds.

“I would say Élodie is one of those kids… she’s just very tough-minded,” Shum-Mousseau explains, noting that Lalonde’s dreams of playing for Team Canada are attainable. “There is a certain drive about Élodie that allows her to think those things and understand that there’s a good reality of them coming true.”

Read More of our 2024 High School Best Series, presented by Louis-Riel Sports-Études, as we tip our caps to top local student-athletes at: OttawaSportsPages.ca/Ottawa-High-School-Best-2024

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