In September, Shynelle Woroniuk was riding high.
The 17-year-old Red Deer product went to the Volleyball Canada National Excellence (NEP) program in Richmond, B.C. She was one of just 15 players in the country invited to participate.
Just seven practices into the program, disaster struck.
“At first, I went down and I was kind of like, oh I’ll be back tomorrow, it’s all good,” she recalled.
“I popped back up and (thought) my knee kind of hurts.”
An MRI revealed a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and meniscus, which brought the Notre Dame High School student back to Red Deer.
After successful knee surgery in November, the happy-go-lucky teen got some more good news last week.
Woroniuk committed to play volleyball next season at the University of Albany in New York, an NCAA Division I program in the America East Conference.
“I’m super excited,” said Woroniuk, who earned a full-ride scholarship to play for the UAlbany Great Danes.
“I’m so pumped to finally make a decision because it seemed like it was on my mind all the time.”
Woroniuk had drawn a ton of interest from schools all across Canada, but her gaze was firmly fixed on heading south of the border.
She eventually settled on Albany because playing at the Division I level will help with the ultimate goal of representing Canada internationally.
“UAlbany, the coaches are just awesome people and I think I’m really going to enjoy it there,” said Woroniuk, who credited local volleyball coach Miles Kydd with helping her navigate the recruiting process.
“He’s been the one person who never put limitations on me as a player or person. He’s always had faith in me.”
UAlbany assistant coach Adam Rollman believes they’ve got a good player in the Red Deer product. From watching game film of Woroniuk, he is reminded of a few great players he’s coached in the past.
“We knew based off her attacking, passing, defensive and service abilities that she would be a great compliment to the rest of the 2021 class we are bringing in,” Rollman said.
“Her volleyball IQ combined with her athleticism are what makes her very special and what makes her prospective future very exciting as well.”
The teen still has a long road ahead before she can hit the court with her new teammates. The estimated recovery time for her injury is anywhere between six months and a year.
A month ago, she was just sitting on the floor trying to flex and straighten her knee. Now, she’s on the bike in her basement and doing physiotherapy. It’s slow – but it’s progress. With her commitment to UAlbany, the next step is clearer than ever.
“My goal is to get as strong as possible and get my knee back to 100 per cent before the season,” she said, noting she’ll head to Albany in August.
“It’s nice because now I have motivation to get up and go do my workouts and do my physio. I have a responsibility to myself, my coach and my team, to rehab as soon as possible. That’s what’s keeping me going.”
Beyond that, she figures the trip to Albany represents her best chance at a long-term goal – representing Canada on the volleyball court at the 2028 Olympics.
“I think this decision will definitely help me with that goal,” she said.