Four former Hapnot Kings volleyball players have started play at the collegiate level, making their mark in the still-young Manitoba college volleyball season.
Evan Danko, Brett Davie, Will Hatherley and Branson Powell have kicked off their first season with the Assiniboine Community College (ACC) Cougars, who play in the Manitoba Colleges Athletic Conference (MCAC).
It is rare for a university or college team to have even one athlete from Flin Flon. No other MCAC men’s volleyball club has even one player from Flin Flon. Having four ex-Hapnot players on the same team at the same time is unprecedented.
All four choosing the school was no accident.
Hatherley was the first player to make his presence known outside of the north. A former varsity Kings star, Hapnot Sportsman of the Year and a provincial tournament award winner, Hatherley committed to play with the Brandon University (BU) Bobcats volleyball team for 2016.
Joining a university sports team was not easy for Hatherley. He saw no time on the court as a redshirt freshman and said he had issues adjusting to the new program.
“I just wasn’t good enough to play at that level. I guess I wasn’t motivated enough to put in the amount of work that they wanted me to,” he said.
Disillusioned, Hatherley left BU and the program after his freshman year, returning to Flin Flon to help coach his old club.
That is when the planning began.
Two Hapnot players, Danko and Powell, had garnered attention from ACC following a tournament in Brandon.
“(ACC head coach) Joel (Small) was initially interested in Branson, then he got to talking with our high school coach Tim (Wiebe) there and was interested in having me as well,” said Danko.
“I still had another year of high school to go, so he was going to check me out the next year. When I was in Grade 12, he came and talked to me and said there was a spot for me on the team. I told him it’s what I wanted to do.”
Once Danko and Powell committed to the team, Danko said he overheard Small saying he needed a new setter. Danko knew just the man for the job – his teammate, Davie.
“I told him I knew a setter from Flin Flon. I’m pretty sure he was coming down here for school anyways,” said Danko.
“I told him I knew Brett, and then he got a hold of Brett and invited him to spring camp, liked what he saw and that’s how it happened.”
Davie emailed coach Small and received an invitation to the team’s main camp after an impressive performance at spring camp.
When the three joined the same club, Hatherley found the pull of the ACC program hard to resist. He chose to restart his post-secondary volleyball career, heading back to Brandon to join the Cougars.
“We had this big plan in the back of our heads for the past year, I’d say. With me unsure where I was going to end up, whether it was with BU or a different college, it’s good that it all worked out and we’re all playing together now,” said Hatherley.
Having the whole group come to Brandon to play has allowed them to bring some of the friendship and bond they developed in Flin Flon to a brand new stage, easing the transition from north to south and from a small town to a larger city.
“Even our old coach (Tim Wiebe), when he came down here to coach the senior girls in Brandon, he said a few people came up to him and said we’re the ACC Kings now, or the Hapnot Cougars,” Davie joked.
So far, the Cougars have a regular season record of three wins and three losses with the four ‘Flonners playing key roles. Hatherley, who now studies business administration, plays the left side along with Powell, who is studying to be a construction electrician. Davie, the setter, is studying piping trades, while Danko plays the middle and is taking construction electrician classes.
Hatherley has even received recognition for his place, being named the MCAC Male Athlete of the Week on Nov. 9
The four share a close bond. They even live together in Brandon and are together more often than not. While they may compete with each other at practice, it’s all love back home.
“To be honest, it’s dope actually. We all get along. We’re always having a good time, adulting,” said Powell.
“It’s been a good time, honestly. We fight over who gets to shower first and all that stuff, who’s got to do the dishes,” added Danko.
When asked about their play styles, each heaped praise on each other’s abilities. Danko, Davie and Powell each said Hatherley was the most skilled of the bunch, but said each of the other players had improved their skills since high school.
“Will is definitely an enforcer on the floor. He knows he’s a go-to player. He can put the ball away when he needs to,” said Danko.
“William, as Danko said, is like the go-to guy. I’d say he’s the best guy on the team, to be honest,” said Powell, who also heaped praise on his friends’ and teammates’ abilities and aerial skill.
“Brett is pretty good at setting and blocking. Oh my god, he is so sick at blocking. Danko is one of the sickest middles I’ve ever seen play. It’s Hop City over there. They could just jump over the roof.”
Hatherley agreed, saying the team is steadily improving.
“It’s going good. We’ve got a lot of talent and we’re just putting it all together right now. There’s a lot of young guys, but it’s going good.”
In the MCAC, players occasionally leave teams after one season, sometimes even swapping between teams within the conference. When asked, all four said they plan on staying with the Cougars next season.