WINNIPEG, MB. - Emma Parker’s dad, Will, was one of the best basketball players ever to don a Wesmen uniform.
So it begs the question: Why volleyball?
“I just like volleyball better,” said Emma with a laugh. “I just found basketball to be super intense. It’s very hard. And because I played all 40 minutes of most games in high school, I was tired all the time. When I played, I never left the court so I always felt exhausted.”
To be fair, while Will Parker was a Wesmen basketball star, her mom, Ardith (who was Ardith Lernout to those who followed Wesmen volleyball in the 1980s), was one of the best volleyball players in Manitoba when she graduated from Winnipeg’s Vincent Massey Collegiate. She went on to have a stellar career at the U of W and so, maybe, just maybe, she had something to do with Emma’s decision to play the game that separates opponents with a net.
“You know, I’ve been pretty much all volleyball,” Emma said. “Even my dad was always on the volleyball side. He knew I liked the sport better and had more fun with volleyball. When it comes to me, he’s been pretty much a volleyball guy.”
Emma Parker is one of eight rookies playing for head coach Diane Scott’s Wesmen this season. Although the team started slowly – they were 3-6 in September matches and 1-5 in October), Parker believes the young Wesmen are starting to come together.
“I think we have a good team,” she said fully understanding that it’s young and in many cases, inexperienced. “There is only one fourth-year on the team. We have eight rookies. But we’re playing every single and its fun. My volleyball teammates are my best friends and I think, as we play together more, we’ll get a lot better.”
Parker was an outstanding high school and club player before entering the U of W. Last year, she played her final season as a member of the St. Norbert Collegiate Celtics Varsity Girls' Volleyball team – a team that finished third at the Provincial championships. Of course, Parker, a 5-foot-10 left side hitter, was named to the Provincial Tournament All-Star team.
She was also a member of the Manitoba Provincial team and was named a Volleyball Manitoba Graduating All Star. In club, she played for Alliance U-17, a team that won a bronze medal at the Provincial Championships last April.
According to Coach Scott, she’s one of the best young athletes – and team players -- to enter the U of W volleyball program in recent years.
“She is an outstanding athlete on all levels: speed, jump, agility, game sense and composure,” Scott said. “She has tons of upside still to develop and is an awesome human -- her personality is contagious and she is an exceptional teammate. Her skills and athleticism come naturally as both her mom and dad competed here at the U of W. So it's even more exciting to have Emma continue the tradition.”
It’s likely the influence of her mother and father had something to do with her decision to play at the U of W. She got plenty of offers from other U Sports schools to attend school outside the province. However, there is just something special about “playing at home.”
“I really wanted to stay at home,” said Emma, who always watched her older sisters Sydney and Kelly play high school volleyball. “I have an hour drive every day and my dad takes me to school and picks me up. I have no stress. Volleyball and school take up all of my time and it’s great to have my parents around. Staying at home was the right decision for me.”
We’re sure Coach Scott would agree.
Scott Taylor for The Manitoba Post
Photos by Kelly Morton/University of Winnipeg