Community Clubs Volleyball

6’2″ Léa Pendergast towers over competition in Canada Cup volleyball win

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By Sam Loveys

When Léa Pendergast was in sixth grade, she was recruited by her elementary school coach to play volleyball because she was tall. Now she’s raining down serves and spikes at the national level and is a newly-crowned Canadian champion.

From July 19-23, Pendergast competed with the Ontario Warriors in the Canada Cup U16 girls’ volleyball championship. They finished with an overall record of 6-1, blowing past Alberta in the finals three sets to zero.

“It was definitely stressful playing against players that are the best in the country, but overall it was a really good experience to gel with the new coaches and new girls,” reflects Pendergast.

“The most exciting part was training with these new girls and learning so much in such a short period of time. Getting super close with each other and seeing our hard work pay off was really gratifying.”

The Canada Cup was not all smooth sailing for the Ontario Warriors. The roster was bigger than usual at 14, and players had come from all around the province with differing styles of play.

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“We’d have little miscommunications on the court and stuff like that where we knew we’d have to fix,” Pendergast says of her team’s early matches. “The key was to keep cheering and stay positive, and we really ended up gelling by the end of the tournament.”

The Warriors’ only loss of the tournament came in their round robin game against Saskatchewan, when they were swept handily (14-25, 19-25, 15-25).

“We could have done a lot better, but they were a very strong team,” notes Pendergast.

The Warriors beat Quebec, Newfoundland New Brunswick, Alberta Black and the Ontario Raptors to reach the final, where they met Alberta Blue, who took down Saskatchewan 17-15 in the fifth set in their semi.

Léa Pendergast. Photo provided

The Warriors then won three close sets 25-21, 25-23 and 25-22 to win the gold medal.

“Knowing we were going into the finals against Alberta who beat the team that we lost to was a little bit stressful,” Pendergast recounts. “But, we took them in three sets and it just felt good.

“One of the girls got on a streak while serving and we ended up coming back and taking the win. Knowing we won after that last point was such an excellent feeling. We all wanted it so badly and we gave it our all on the court. I couldn’t believe it.”

Pendergast began playing volleyball in sixth grade at her favorite gym teacher’s suggestion.

“It’s when I really fell in love with the sport,” she recalls.

The following year she played competitively for the first time with the Ottawa Fusion, before transferring to Mavericks where she continues to play today.

Entering high school, Pendergast chose to attend Louis-Riel for their sports-études program, which supports high-performance athletes and allows them to be more flexible in their academic schedule.

“Playing on the school team itself would be way too busy for me, but the program allows me to integrate volleyball into my schedule,” Pendergast outlines. “So, for example, instead of gym class, I’d be on the court playing and training.”

Léa Pendergast. Photo provided

A left-side hitter, Pendergast excels through her height and strength. Standing at 6′ 2″, she’s an excellent spiker and an iron wall while blocking.

“It’s definitely my biggest strength. I have yet to come across anyone taller than me yet,” she smiles.

Due to her height and skill, Pendergast played with an older age group in her Grade 9 year, which is when she met her role model Élodie Lalonde, a fellow Mavericks player who will play NCAA volleyball at High Point University in North Carolina.

“She’s been the person I look up to,” Pendergast highlights. “She’s made the national team and has been able to give me so much advice with volleyball. She’s one of my friends too, which makes it easier for me to talk to her about anything.”

In the future, Pendergast hopes to travel to the U.S. and also play Division 1 volleyball for a top school. She’s signed up with Six Pack Recruiting, which put together a recruitment package on their website.

“D1 and a scholarship is a big goal,” Pendergast indicates. “But for now, my goal is setting the bar higher for myself and working on what I can do better.”

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