Volleyball prowess is evident in the Bruce family.
For the youngest Bruce, Nick, he probably wouldn’t have ever played the sport if it wasn’t for his two older sisters.
“They both had an impact on me, said Bruce. “They definitely led me into the sport.”
“I was more of a hockey player and a basketball player,” he said. “Kayla and Chantal introduced me to the old coach at UFV [University of the Fraser Valley] and that’s kind of what got me into the program.”
Nick’s older sisters both played volleyball for the school in previous seasons. His middle sister, Kayla, was one of the most-well established players in program history.
Kayla and Chantal helped lead the team to a provincial championship during the 2012-2013 season. After the championship, Kayla was named the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association’s [CCAA] Female Athlete of the Year across all sports.
That kind of prestige is hard to live up to, but there’s no doubt that the youngest Bruce has burgeoned into a top player in PACWEST volleyball this season.
“This has by far been his best season.” said head coach Kyle Donen.
“A lot of that has to do with the hard work he put in during the offseason. He put the time in at the gym, and it’s showing on the court.”
After a slow start to the season, the University of Fraser Valley Cascades have started to turn their season around. They were 1-4 after their first five games, but the team has rallied and now sits at 6-6 on the season.
Their success is in large part thanks to Bruce, who has started to get into a rhythm during the last month of action.
On Oct. 31st, Bruce was named PACWEST Male Athlete of the Week after a pair of astonishing performances against the Camosun Chargers.
In the first game that weekend, Bruce posted 27 kills along with 10 digs and two blocks. Despite the all-star effort, the Cascades still dropped that game.
Since that loss, the team has turned things around.
It started during the second game of back-to-backs against the Chargers. Bruce once again posted a 20 kill performance, leading his team to victory.
Bruce was responsible for 54 points over two games that weekend.
“I’m just trying to do all the right things out there,” he said. “I’m just trying to hit the ball smart.”
“It’s not a matter of just trying to hit the ball as hard as you can every time. You need to find different ways to score.
Donen notes that Bruce has had multiple games with more than 20 kills since being named player of the week at the end of October.
“As a team we got off to a slow start, but he’s become one of the main contributors once we started to play really well,” said Donen.
“He’s definitely been improving, he said. “When your efficiency is as high as it has been for him, you’re gonna have success.”
This year has really been a coming out party for the Fleetwood Park alumni. While he had other successful campaigns with UFV, he’s really entered the spotlight this season.
“As a young player, sometimes you get caught in the shadows of a few other guys,” said Donen. “He flew a little more under the radar before. Now, he’s our most experienced player and he’s rising to the occasion.
“He’s definitely a leader on our team.”
The 6’3” left side player is near the top of the leaderboard in a number of categories for PACWEST men’s volleyball. He’s fifth with 3.31 kills-per-set, and also fifth in overall points with 4.01 per-set.
“It’s been fun, said Bruce. “Sometimes you don’t realize that until you’re near the end.”
“Being in fifth year, I know there’s not many games left. I’m just trying to make the most of each one.”
Since this is Bruce’s fifth and final year with the university and the Cascades, he’s taken on more of a leadership role for the organization.
His leadership is imperative with a lot of younger guys on the team. The roster turnover in part led to their slow start to the season, according to Donen.
“We were having a tougher time gelling as a group,” he said. “We lost some big pieces after last season.”
“Now that our team has become closer, guys are starting to get better chemistry.”
Bruce has also noticed that the Cascades are starting to play more as one unit, with contributions from all over the court.
“It’s nice to see the young guys stepping it up,” he said. “A lot of different young guys have been stepping up for us.”
For Bruce, it’s now about being a strong leader on the court as one of the veterans on the team.
“You just try to lead by example,” he said. “You want to make your emotions on the court heard. When you do that, it rubs off on your teammates.”
With a strong final season so far, Donen believes that the youngest Bruce is separating himself from his sisters’ legacy.
“He’s making his own name for himself,” he said. “if he keeps doing what he’s doing, he’s going to be finishing his career on a good note.”
“We just want to keep building on what we’ve done so far,” Bruce said. “We’ve played pretty well and we want to be able to step up against the good teams in this league.”
“Its all about getting better week to week. We want to keep building on our success.”
As of writing, the Cascades are ranked 14th nationally on the CCAA men’s volleyball standings. This will be a big year for Bruce and company as UFV will host the provincial volleyball championships from Feb. 22nd to 24th.
If they were to make nationals, the Cascades would travel to Camosun College in Victoria from March 7th to 10th.