By Martin Boyce
Heartbreak has struck Team Ontario volleyball player Mia Workman. A suspected torn ACL will prevent the Ottawa Mavericks Volleyball Club athlete from playing in the Canada Games, a goal she’s been chasing for 3 years.
In her provincial team’s first exhibition match, a routine play jumping for the ball took a turn for the worst as Workman landed awkwardly. She immediately knew something terrible had happened.
“I was confused and I was scared because I knew it wasn’t good,” recounts the 18-year-old right-side player. “Right away, I knew I wasn’t going to be on the court for a while.”
The injury will effectively mark the end of an up-and-down final season before she heads off for university.
“I wanted everything to go perfectly but not everything did. We had a lot of lows, and we had a lot of highs,” reflects the University of Toronto-bound player who was named an Ontario all-star as her 9th-seeded Mavs team won a provincial silver medal thanks to several big upsets.
Signing with the U of T Varsity Blues was a major highlight for the Quest for Gold provincially-carded athlete, but earning her spot on Team Ontario for the Canada Games took the cake.
“It’s huge,” underlines the Glebe Collegiate Institute grad. “Being named is definitely one of the biggest things I’ve ever achieved.”
A volleyball player since age 11, Workman has dreams of one day playing for the national team, though for the moment she remains focused on rehabbing her injury and having a strong impact in varsity volleyball.
She and Ontario teammate Ella Stewart both credit their club coach, Judi Mousseau, for providing them with the tough love and support that buoyed them during challenging times on and off the court.
Stewart recalls suffering a concussion during her 16U season that left her doubting she’d ever playing again.
“Although she was really tough on me, she made me realize how important volleyball is to me,” the 17-year-old says of Mousseau. “She helped me reach a whole new level and she never gave up on me.”
Stewart began playing the sport she now loves after being recruited – for her height – to the Glashan Public School volleyball team in Grade 7.
Quickly developing as a strong middle blocker, she attended a 16U high-performance camp as under-ager, eventually making it into that program on her second try.
“I realized I’m one in 12 girls in Ontario that made that team,” she recalls, underlining it was then that she, for the first time, saw volleyball as her future. “That was just so eye-opening and amazing and made me realize how high up there I am.”
Stewart savours the opportunity to play for Team Ontario, fully appreciating that it’s the kind of thing many others in the world can only dream of. Inspired by her gender studies class, the Grade 12 Glebe student fundraised to help a charity keep an 8-year-old from Niger avoid the arranged marriage 76% of girls in her country are forced into.
“We see it on the news and on social media that there are people out there that need our help,” explains Stewart. “I want to actually go straight to the issue and work really hard to help fix that issue.”
Back on the court, this year, again as an under-ager, she made the team heading to the Canada Games. Stewart says the team will strive to win the gold in Workman’s honour.
“Our team, of course, will miss her, but we have to bounce back,” indicates the 6’0” middle. “As a team, we have to work hard without her and we’ll do it for her since she won’t be with us.”