Mowachaht/Muchalaht teen to represent B.C. in volleyball at North American Indigenous Games

Campbell River, BC

Karleigh Lucas-Johnson has been given another opportunity to pick up some additional hardware from a prestigious Indigenous multi-sport games.

Lucas-Johnson, a member of Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation, has been named to the British Columbia girls’ under 19 volleyball squad that will participate in next month’s North American Indigenous Games (NAIG).

The games, which are expected to feature about 5,000 athletes from across Canada and the United States, will be held July 15-23, primarily in the Nova Scotia capital of Halifax.

Competition venues will also be in the Millbrook First Nation and the city of Dartmouth.

Besides volleyball, 15 other sports will also be contested at the games.

For Lucas-Johnson, a 17-year-old who is finishing up her Grade 11 studies at Carihi Secondary School in Campbell River, this will mark the second time she’s participated at the NAIG.

She was a member of the B.C. club that placed second in the girls’ under-16 category at the 2017 NAIG, held primarily in Toronto.

For Lucas-Johnson, predicting how her team will fare this time around is difficult since she has no idea about the quality of play of any of the other entrants.

“If we do place, that would be a good experience,” she said.

Lucas-Johnson was one of 12 players named to the B.C. under-19 side following a pair of tryouts earlier this year.

About two dozen team hopefuls attended in the initial tryout. And then about 40 individuals were at the second tryouts.

Lucas-Johnson, a 5-foot-5 outside hitter, thought she fared well at both sessions. But she wasn’t sure if she would be named to the NAIG-bound squad.

“There were a lot more girls (at the second tryout) that weren’t at the first one,” she said. “They were super tall. Some of them were like 5-foot-11.”

Rob Behrouzian, who will serve as the B.C. girls’ under-19 head coach at NAIG, obviously was impressed with Lucas-Johnson’s efforts and selected her to his club.

“She is a talented volleyball player who possesses a unique combination of technical proficiency, strategic thinking and natural athleticism,” Behrouzian said in a letter for Lucas-Johnson, who is seeking sponsorship funds for her trip to Halifax. “She has exhibited a strong understanding of the game, displaying excellent court presence, anticipation and the ability to make quick decisions under pressure.”

Behrouzian added Lucas-Johnson is more concerned about team goals than her individual aspirations.

“Karleigh is a team player, putting the team’s goals ahead of her own and inspiring her teammates to strive for excellence,” he said.

Lucas-Johnson was introduced to volleyball while attending a local camp when she was in Grade 5.

The following year she started playing for her middle school.

Lucas-Johnson had also taken dance classes for about a year. And she played rugby and was a track and field participant when she was younger.

But she opted to stop all of her other extra-curricular activities to concentrate on volleyball.

“From Grade 6 on that’s the only thing I focused on,” she said.

Lucas-Johnson suited up for the Carihi Tyees senior girls’ team this past season. That squad placed second at its Vancouver Island championships.

Lucas-Johnson, who has one more year of high school studies remaining, is hoping to continue playing volleyball at the post-secondary level.

“I think I’m going to stay close to home and play,” she said.

Lucas-Johnson is hoping to attend the University of Victoria. If she is indeed accepted into the university, she is not quite sure which program she would enroll in.

“I’m still figuring that out,” she said. “I’m thinking of becoming a lawyer.”

As for the upcoming NAIG, Lucas-Johnson and her teammates are expected to converge in Vancouver on June 24-25 and have some practice sessions together.

“And then I’m pretty sure we get another practice day when we arrive in Halifax,” she said.

Though her team will have its own hectic schedule in Halifax, Lucas-Johnson is hoping to have opportunities to catch some of the other sports as well.

“If we have the extra time I hope to go and support the other B.C. teams,” she said.

Lucas-Johnson also offered her thoughts on how she’ll prepare for her own event, even though she is uncertain of the competition.

“I just try to go in with a positive mindset and watch them in warmups and see where the majority of their hits go,” she said.

This will mark the 10th time the NAIG have been held. The games were first staged in 1990 in Edmonton.

The original plan was to have the games alternate between Canadian and American locations.

But the event has only been hosted by U.S. cities twice, in Blaine, Minnesota in 1995 and in Denver, Colorado in 2006.

Games’ officials now only consider Canadian locations when selecting future hosts.

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