Jade Bussard (left) and Sam Gagnon (right) have been teammates for six years and will be by each others’ side for a few more as they will both attend University of British Columbia-Okanagan to play volleyball next year. (Photos by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

High School volleyball teammates Jade Bussard and Sam Gagnon commit to UBCO Heat

For the last six seasons, Jade Bussard and Sam Gagnon have been an inseparable pair of teammates.

Earlier this month, they decided at the very least a seventh was in order.

The dynamic duo of Bussard and Gagnon, who are grade 12 volleyball players at École Secondaire Notre Dame High School both decided to attend University Of British Columbia-Okanagan and suit up for the Heat next year.

After separate visits to the school in late August where they practiced with the team, explored the campus and checked out a couple games, both were convinced it was the right landing spot.

The two teens, who are also teammates on the Central Alberta Queens Volleyball Club, were excited after their official acceptance letters arrived last week.

“(It said) welcome to UBC, so that was like, this is really happening. It’s incredibly exciting,” Gagnon said.

“It’s official now,” Bussard added.

Both girls were a big part of their Alberta high school 4A provincial volleyball appearance in 2016 with the Cougars and after being leaders on the team this year, Gagnon said that experience will also help them next year.

“School gave us a chance to lead, especially Jade. It feels great when some of the younger girls are looking up to you and you go out there and perform,” she said.

Bussard and Gagnon each added it will be huge going through the experience together at UBCO.

“There’s already a support system in place. If you’re freaking out or you miss home, you have someone that’s doing the exact same thing,” Bussard said.

“You get to bring a little piece of home with you. Somebody that you know and are comfortable with. We shared the same experiences, came from the same coaching,” Gagnon added.

The pair are both outside hitters and will compete for two open spots next year with the Heat after their seniors at the position departed.

Bussard, who was the captain of the Cougars senior girls team this year hopes to make an impact at UBCO right away.

Based on conversations with Heat coach Steve Manuel, there are plenty of reasons for optimism about her chances of playing in year 1.

“There’s definitely more confidence going into the club season and next year too. We both had to play big roles on our school team. It gave us a confidence boost. We’re at the top of our level and we’ll be good going into next year,” Bussard said.

Gagnon is also unabashedly confident about her chances to crack the starting six with the Heat in 2018-2019. Even with the pressure that might come with a first-year experience in a new city and on a brand new team, she’s confident it will work out.

“I think there’s some pressure to do well for sure, but at the same time, there’s no pressure because it’s just going to be so much fun. All the girls are amazing and the coach is wonderful,” she said.

It would be no surprise if the five-foot-1o outside hitter did succeed at the next level, given her family history.

Her mom played in university and her dad Terry was on the Team Canada Volleyball squad at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

Gagnon said there were some memorabilia of that experience at the house, but she never really thought much about it.

She noted that she had an inauspicious start in the sport, but hopes now she can one day follow in her dad’s footsteps.

“I wasn’t very good right off the bat. It definitely wasn’t in my genes, had to work pretty hard,” she said.

“When I finally chose, I think they were both pretty happy. Would be kind of amazing, to chase after that Olympic dream, just as my dad did.”

Email sports tips to Byron Hackett

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