WESTLOCK — Although his high school volleyball days are over, doors continue to open for Westlock’s Noah Rigney, who recently signed with the Brandon University Bobcats.
Following a successful 2022 season with his Edmonton-based Northern Alberta Volleyball Club (NAVC) and Team Alberta where the 17-year-old won two gold medals, one at youth nationals in May and a second at the 2022 Canada Cup last July, Rigney is now preparing to continue his thriving volleyball career with the Bobcats in Brandon, Man. after signing with them last September.
Rigney said he first considered “looking into blue-collar schools” such as NAIT in Edmonton, a very competitive Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) team and visited several universities last fall. He had offers from almost every post-secondary school he spoke with, including the University of Alberta, Mount Royal University in Calgary, University of British Columbia and the University of Calgary.
High-school aged players can be recruited and are permitted to sign (with a post-secondary club) when the high school volleyball season begins, he explained, noting in September he “had visits to Fraser Valley in Abbotsford and the very next week I went to Brandon for my visit there.”
“Brandon really stuck out to me. I’m super big on small towns and I love the small town feel,” said Rigney. “The University is very small (in Brandon) and they really don’t have many sports programs. The only one that’s really succeeding is the men’s volleyball because of head coach Grant Wilson. He basically started the program from the bottom.”
Now in his final year at R.F. Staples School, Rigney will be graduating this spring with the Class of 2023 before moving east. According to the recruitment process for students in Grades 11 or under, Rigney was provided with the Bobcats contact information through his current coach and said, “I reached out and we’ve been talking ever since,” he said. “I had basically four options that I was heavily considering and I went out to Brandon and just loved it. The people and the coaching staff are fantastic.”
As part of the offer with Brandon University, where he will study business in the fall, he has a five-year scholarship as long as he’s with the team, he noted, adding although most scholarships are four years, with university sports you have five years of playing eligibility, so he decided to spread his studies out over that timespan to take advantage of the full five-year scholarship.
“The plan is to just slow it down a little and take five years and use all of my years of eligibility. Near the end of August is probably when I’ll head down there,” he said noting he is already looking forward joining the men’s volleyball team at Brandon University, which is a member of U SPORTS, a premiere league for Canadian university aged students, and competes in the Canada West Universities Athletics Association.
“It’s an honour to be able to continue my career at such a high level,” he said. “The Bobcats are pretty consistent with top 10 in the country and top five or six in Canada-West usually, so they always stay fairly competitive and that’s why I’m honoured to be there and enjoy my time there,” he added, noting once on the team he is hoping to get a starting role at some point.
Rigney’s success in volleyball at both the high school and club level has prepared him to take the next step in his volleyball career. He noted much support from friends and family over the years and said he is “grateful that I have so many memories to look back on,” adding his introduction to the sport at a young age also had an impact on his success as a young athlete.
“I’ve had some good coaches along the way — there’s lots of good people here in Westlock that have helped me exceed expectations and get to that level,” he said. “My Grade 4 teacher at (Eleanor Hall) school in Clyde was Kyle Laughy. He was also my Grade 6 volleyball coach and recommended me to play club volleyball in Westlock so he kind of set me on my way to where I am today.”