Sports

Donen to helm UFV men’s volleyball program

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Kyle Donen boasts a uniquely broad volleyball skill set, with experience as a player, a coach and even a play-by-play broadcaster.

He'll bring all those experiences to bear in his latest gig – head coach of the University of the Fraser Valley men's volleyball squad.

"It's very exciting – it's a dream come true to have an opportunity to work at this level," Donen said. "I appreciate being able to coach at any level and helping kids out. But taking it one step further and being able to do it at the college/university level is something that I've always wanted to do."

The 26-year-old White Rock native takes over for Greg Russell, who had helmed the Cascades since 2005 but whose contract was not renewed by the UFV athletic department in April.

The Cascades men's volleyballers won PacWest medals four straight years between 2007 and 2010, with a fourth-place finish at nationals in 2009, but didn't approach those heights in more recent years and missed the playoffs last season with an 8-16 record.

Donen has a good feel for his personnel already – he served as an assistant coach with the UFV men over the season half of last season.

"Some of the key pieces are returning, and it's a strong core," he said. "With the group last year, I think they beat every team at least once time. Unfortunately they weren't able to string together multiple wins against some of the teams they needed to, which would have really been the difference between making (the playoffs) and not making it. It's definitely a tight league.

"But I don't see any reason we can't be successful. I'm hoping to try and change the mindset of some of these guys, and make them more driven to want to have that success and earn that berth to go to nationals this year."

Donen played university volleyball for the Thompson Rivers WolfPack from 2006 to 2010, attending three national championships during that time. He was also a longtime member of the B.C. provincial team, and was part of the Canadian Jewish national volleyball squad that competed in Tel Aviv in 2009.

Donen has previously coached with White Rock's Seaside Volleyball Club and at Semiahmoo Senior Secondary and Elgin Park Secondary.

Also an accomplished play-by-play broadcaster, he has been the voice of many volleyball championships over the past few years, including last year’s Canada West men’s Final Four hosted by Trinity Western University.

"I think you have a certain level of learning as a player, but when you finally get a chance to watch it from afar or behind the mic, you kind of see the game in a different way," he said. "You do see a lot of different things and you can think about them as a coach, and I've definitely done that. I'm going to bring as much of that to my coaching as possible."

UFV athletic director Rocky Olfert said Donen has "so many of the qualities that we were looking for in a coach.

"I believe he will be key in leading this program forward,” Olfert said. “He is very professional, well-prepared, and passionate about developing student athletes at UFV and in the surrounding communities that we serve.”

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