The Gee-Gees women's volleyball team is proud to announce their first verbal commitments for the 2019-20 season.
Both natives of Ottawa, Michaela Jones and Portia Cooper will be the newest additions to the Gee-Gees family. Jones and Cooper are skilled young athletes that have had the opportunity to develop together playing high-level volleyball over the last number of years. The pair will now take their next step with the sport by joining a rich tradition of Gee-Gees women's volleyball at the University of Ottawa.
Gee-Gees head coach coach Lionel Woods noted how important it is to the program to be adding two high end local talents.
"It is great for us to be able to add these two high level players to next year's team and the extra bonus is that they are also local products," said Woods. "It is just awesome how many top level players keep being produced from Ottawa area clubs; Michaela and Portia are the latest two and we are thrilled that they have chosen uOttawa."
Coach Woods also pointed to the "off-court reasons" for recruiting Jones and Cooper.
"Our recruiting process is certainly focused on filling specific positions each year but an even higher priority is placed on finding young women who display the highest level of character, integrity, humility and commitment to their development. Michaela and Portia, check every one of those boxes," he said.
An all-around talent, Jones will join the Gee-Gees with the intention of developing as one of the team's two liberos heading into the future.
Combining her strong athleticism and an acute read for the game, Jones has all the tools needed to become a successful player at the U SPORTS level.
"Michaela has so many different skills and abilities to help her be successful at our level, not the least of which is her natural touch on defense and her ability to extend rallies by reading and chasing down almost any attack. That is why we are hoping to have her focus 99% of her time as a libero on our roster," said Woods.
Jones, along with Cooper, has been a product of the Ottawa Maverick club system that has produced many great Gee-Gees talents. Having experienced high-level volleyball with the Ontario Provincial Team Program and with the Maverick Volleyball Club, Jones enters her time at uOttawa with great national level experience to go along with her athletic abilities.
Individually, Jones was awarded an Ontario Volleyball Association Award of Excellence in 2017, and was also named the Most Valuable Player of her high school team at A.Y. Jackson S.S.
For Jones, staying close to home was key in making her decision to play at the next level. Given her familiarity with the Gee-Gees program, it was a clear choice that would support her future in the sport.
"I knew I wanted to stay local, but also play at the next level," she said. "It was really nice to have the opportunity to attend things like the camps run by the Gee-Gees, especially because the players were so involved with running them. I was able to get to know the players and the environment."
From an academic perspective, Jones is looking to pursue her studies in engineering at uOttawa. If a demanding program like engineering is her choice, Jones wanted to ensure she would be joining a positive and supporting volleyball environment, and saw that it existed in the Gee-Gees.
"The biggest thing was how I felt with the team and coaching," she said. "But academics is a huge part of it too. I know Ottawa has great programs and I love the campus being downtown."
Cooper is another player that has the talent to make an impact for the Garnet and Grey early in her career. The sky is the limit for Cooper, as she is already a dynamic and explosive player who can play all three attack positions in the front row.
Cooper has built an impressive resume so far in her young career. In addition to the bronze medal she and Jones won at the 2017 National Championship, while playing for the Mavericks, Cooper is currently playing with Team Ontario Elite. In the summer, she and Jones were alternates on Team Ontario Black.
A versatile player that can help the Gee-Gees immediately with her block and attack touch height, Coach Woods says that Cooper's talents will be another piece that rounds out a promising roster for years to come.
"Portia will certainly impact our floor very early in her career as a front row player, but we also have every confidence that her backrow development will progress quickly so that we can count on her as a LS or RS player throughout her career."
"As soon as I started playing 14U volleyball, I knew I wanted to eventually get to the varsity level," said Cooper. "Over the past years, I've had many opportunities to get to know Lionel and the team and over the last little while I realized that Ottawa is the perfect place for me. With high-quality athletic and academic programs, I think the whole environment at uOttawa will help me achieve my academic and athletic goals."
Cooper also has high academic ambitions, as she wants to study Biomedical Science once she arrives at uOttawa. Currently an academic award winner in various subjects at Elmwood School, there is little doubt that she will succeed both on the court and in the classroom at the next level.
Both Cooper and Jones conveyed their excitement about continuing their journey to another level of volleyball as teammates.
"I'm super excited to keep playing with Michaela going forward," said Cooper. "We've been on the same team for five years now, so I'm really excited to keep playing with her with another group of great girls."
Jones echoed the sentiments of her teammate, commenting on having someone in the same situation will be helpful adjusting to a new environment.
"I think coming together will help us both integrate into not only the team, but the school as well," said Jones. "Going to university is going to be such a new experience, so having someone there that you're familiar with by your side is very exciting."