Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone who happens to be reading today. It’s a special holiday team preview today, which is fitting since there’s no place like Dome for the Holidays. The Dome Defenders hail from the Volleydome and Volleydome GYM, who sponsored the Inaugural Season, and will now be represented in the NBVL Calgary. Of all the team’s in the NBVL, the Defenders are the most invested. Going all in on their team identity, they are the only team in either league to have a name and logo unique to their team. They aren’t taking any shortcuts this season, and have their eyes on being the first ever NBVL Calgary Champions.
Camille Saxton holds the reins of the Defenders’ sleigh, and is also one of the reindeer, aka she’s a player/owner. Former Indoor great, and Camille’s father, Don Saxton, is also involved as head elf/coach. I’ll end the Christmas puns there, as we get into the players wearing Green and Blue in Calgary this season.
Stephanie burnside – 3rd overall
The player with the more NORCECA beach experience than any other in the NBVL is Steph Burnside with 29 events played, representing Mexico. In fact, she’s played the 8th most NORCECA events of anyone, anywhere, with a career best bronze medal in La Paz, Mexico this last summer. She’s one of the most experienced athletes in the NBVL field, and at 23 years old, still one of the youngest, giving her loads of potential. Her and Saxton already have a history, domestically as well, so The Defenders knew exactly what they were doing with their first pick.
camille saxton – 6th overall (Player/owner)
Saxton has built up a little beach history of her own over the past few years, taking Gold both 1* and 2* FIVB events in 2017, and following it up with an appearance at the 2017 World Championships in Vienna. Had she been draft eligible, she would have certainly been eyed for the first overall pick. With the highest spike touch at the Combine by 6 full inches, every women’s player was hoping to get chosen on her team, and she was certainly happy to have her choice among them.
luis castillo – 11th overall
Another veteran of the NORCECA tour, Luis Castillo has played in 17 events for the Dominican Republic. Hitting the quarter finals 3 times between 2013 and 2016, he now competes in the Calgary summers, where he’s been a regular in the semi finals of CBVA and VA events. As a regular in the Volleydome’s summer training group, along with Saxton and Burnside, the Dome Defenders have a good idea of what Castillo is capable of and have high expectations, taking him as their first male player in the 11th spot.
chris brunet – 14th overall
As a Canuck Stuff Volleyball Club graduate, Brunet was also familiar to Dome Defenders brass. Beyond that, he played in Usport as a member of the Queens Golden Gaels. Brunet impressed at the Combine with above average scores in all physical tests, but also great play on the court, earning him a spot on the Defenders.
jon isaacs – 19th overall
By this point, the draft strategy seems pretty clear, that the Defenders leaned heavily towards athletes they had a previous connection with. Taking Isaacs 19th was no exception, as member of the aforementioned summer training group. Another athlete with NORCECA experience, Jon competes under the Bahamas flag. He had the highest Block touch, and the second highest Spike touch in Calgary, and hopes to that physical ability to good use this season.
leah andries – 22nd overall
With their final pick, the Defenders took the combine’s fastest female, Leah Andries. She’s had some beach in the past few years, highlighted by a 3rd place at last summer’s Schanks tournament, and a tournament victory at the Sylvan Lake Volleyball Alberta event in 2017. Leah is a solid addition to the Defenders team, but will likely have to cede playing time to her international caliber team mates.
Burnside and Saxton will be the women’s pair to beat this season. Their total combined beach experience, plus the fact that they’ve already been successful together as a team, gives them a significant edge over other teams in the league on paper, but they’ll still need to prove it on the court. The men could be strong as well, though none have much experience as defenders. They’ll have to find the pairing that works best quickly in order to keep up with a couple of the other men’s teams that are hoping to be strong right out of the gates.