Steinbach Regional Sabres alumni Jordon Heppner is making a name for himself in U Sports volleyball.
Heppner, who plays middle for the University of Manitoba Bisons men’s volleyball team, was named U Sports Rookie of the Year.
“It's honestly a dream. I'm still trying to have it settle in my mind about becoming a Rookie of the Year in Canada,” Heppner says.
He says at the start of the year, his goal was to make the all-rookie team, which he accomplished. Then, his team surprised him with the news that he received Canada West’s Rookie of the Year honour. A few days later, Heppner was invited to the all-rookie banquet in Hamilton, where the national U Sports Rookie of the Year was announced.
“It was very exciting. The rookie year couldn't have asked for anything better. It was a great year, great team,” he says.
Along with Heppner, Bisons Raya Surinx captured the Rookie of the Year award on the women’s side.
Heppner started playing volleyball seven years ago with Providence University’s Junior Pilots club.
"I joined volleyball just because my friends were playing, and I thought it would be fun to spend more time with them and play a sport that we all love,” he explains. “At that time, I was still playing a couple of other sports like speed swimming and basketball. I fell in love with the sport after that,”
After his time with the Jr. Pilots, Heppner was scouted to play with the University of Manitoba’s Junior Bisons program. There, he won a national championship in his U18 year. He committed to the Bisons university team in Grade 11 and has called it home ever since.
“I still got in contact with a lot of other schools across Canada, but I just wanted to stay around home and stay around family and friends, and that sort of made an easy option for me. I knew U of M had a great coach and a great team, so that made it really easy. I don't regret this decision at all,” he says.
The rookie says the transition from high school to university has been a learning curve.
“It's a big difference from high school. For example, on our trips, if you're not playing volleyball, if you're not playing the games, you're at the hotel, studying and working on academics. You got to really learn how to manage your time really well,” he says.
He is grateful for the support he’s received from the community, especially from his family and close friends.
“[My family and friends] have been great support. My parents always motivate me at home to get my homework done, and I know some other close friends that are in university as well, so if they can do it. I can do it,” he says.
While Heppner’s rookie season is over, he looks forward to the offseason.
"Got to live up to the expectations of Rookie of the Year next year," he says. "I'm going to keep working hard. I know my teammates are going to motivate me to work hard because I'll be in the gym with them three or four times a week. It's a short offseason, but you can do a lot in that offseason.”
With files from Dave Anthony.