The Pakmen Name Is Revered throughout Canada’s Post Secondary Institutions
By DAVID WINER
One can measure the true success of a sports club by the accomplishments of its members.
And, just as importantly, one can discern the character of a club by the mettle of its graduates once removed from the comforts and familiarity of their teammates and coaches.
Can they be standouts at higher levels and in other fields?
Will they display the leadership, character and athletic prowess to take their game to the next level?
Pakmen Volleyball Club graduates have been checking all the boxes for more than a decade and the 2018-19 season has been exceptionally bountiful.
The names of Pakmen graduates were regularly featured in early March on college and university all-star teams across the country.
After all the medals were distributed, 26 Pakmen graduates were either named to an all-star team, captured a championship medal, or both.
“It’s very gratifying to see so many Pakmen players come through the ranks and go on to do so well in their post secondary careers,” raved Pakmen Director and founder Kelly Smith. “We pride ourselves on giving youth the skills and confidence to play this game for life.”
One year removed from the Pakmen program, Xander Ketrzynski won every individual honor available as a member of the Ryerson Rams. Ketrzynski dominated OUA (Ontario University Athletics) play and was honored by being named an OUA East First Team All-Star, Rookie of the Year, Player of the Year, named to the All-Rookie Team, as well as being named USports Rookie of the Year.
While Ketrzynski is just beginning to create a stir at the post secondary level, brothers Chris and Dale Towe are graduating after sensational collegiate careers.
Chris, 23, graduated from the University of Toronto in grand style, being named to the OUA East First All-Star Team, along with U of T teammate Jordan Figuera, and Ketrzynski on the men’s side and Lauren Veltman on the women’s team.
Meanwhile, Dale, 21, was selected to the OUA East Second Team after his stellar career with the RMC (Royal Military College) Paladins. Other Pakmen grads named were Navreet Suhan of Ryerson, Andrew Tauhid of York, as well as Jenna Woock (U of T), Cailin Wark (Ryerson) and Julia Wiercigroch (Queen’s) on the women’s side.
Both Chris and Dale Towe spoke glowingly of their experiences while wearing the Pakmen colors.
“I always watched Pakmen teams at tournaments and wondered what it would be like to play with them,” said Chris, who finally decided to take the leap in his 17U year.
“Throughout my two years there, we practiced at a very high level with a variety of coaches,” said Chris. “We also played in as many tournaments as we could, including high performance tournaments in the U.S. After my 18U year I had interest in many Varsity programs across the country, and I can attribute much of that to being a part of Pakmen and the exposure it provided.”
Chris, a 6-foot-6 left side, is particularly thankful for the guidance provided by Pakmen coaches Phil Rodriguez, Edmund Chan and Chris Simek. “All three were huge influences, pushing us to be our best every day and to never settle, even when successful.”
Chris, without even realizing it at the time, showcased his skills before his future coach when Pakmen traveled to Edmonton for the 17U Nationals.
“All season we were consistently coming second and third at various OVA (Ontario Volleyball Association) tournaments. But, at the semi finals at Nationals, we beat Guelph, who we had lost to many times throughout the season, to send us to the final. This is where I got to play in front of Terry Danyluk, coach of the University of Alberta Golden Bears, for the first time and was offered a spot on the team following our match.”
After his 18U season with Pakmen and upon graduating from Mayfield, Towe agreed to attend the University of Alberta and play under Danyluk.
“I decided on U of A as they were known for having the best program in the country just winning the CIS national championship the year before. I have nothing but amazing things to say about my (three years) there. The dedication of the coaching staff, the atmosphere around the team and the talent and drive of the athletes, was nothing short of incredible.
“I was pushed every day to get better and compete for a spot on the floor,” continued Chris. “Through my years there we captured three National medals including the CIS (now USPORTS) national title. These are experiences I will never forget. Unfortunately, I sustained a series of concussions through the three years and was sidelined for a good portion of each year that I was there. So, after my third year, when I got injured again just two weeks before we hosted the USPORTS championship when I was supposed to be in the starting lineup, I made the decision that I could not continue to play through the concussions and needed to quit in order to protect my brain’s health. I took the year off to heal and transferred back to Ontario to be closer to family. After a year of not playing, I made the decision to join the U of T volleyball team, as I was already attending the school the previous year, and it was my opportunity to play again.”
Reinvigorated, after his one and only season with the Varsity Blues, Chris hopes to delay his career as a mechanical engineer and continue playing.
“After getting surgery on my shoulder, I hope to play professional volleyball either in indoor or beach, since I enjoy both equally.”
Chris is certainly no stranger to international competition, having represented Canada at the 2014 U21 and U19 world beach championships in Cyprus and Portugal, and the 2016 U21 championships in Switzerland.
“I am happy to have my mechanical engineering degree to fall back on when volleyball is no longer an option, or when a good engineering opportunity presents itself.”
Despite Chris being in Alberta for three years, and Dale remaining in Ontario, the two brothers have remained close.
“Dale and I have a very good relationship!,” said Chris. “Growing up we always played on the same sports teams and were always competing with each other. Pushing each other to be the athletes we are today. We are each other’s biggest fans, while also being the biggest competition! Dale played on the Pakmen team a year younger so we have played against each other in OVA volleyball numerous times. We also met up on the court this year in the OUA twice which was a fun experience.”
Dale will always be thankful to Chris for giving him the needed push to join the Pakmen.
“I owe it all to my brother for convincing me to tryout for Pakmen.,” explained Dale. “In Grade 10, I had limited volleyball experience and the idea of trying out for a national championship team was quite intimidating. However, Chris had been playing volleyball for a couple years and he knew a few of the guys on the team and he assured me that it would be worth trying out. After being lucky enough to make the team, my teammates were very accepting and helped me improve quickly. Chris would give me a ton of tips as well since he played for the 17U Pakmen team at the time.”
And once under the guidance of Pakmen coaching, Dale’s game immediately took off.
“Pakmen played an essential role in my volleyball career as it was the first and only club team I ever played for,” said Dale, who played for the club for three years. “Pakmen gave me some great coaching early in my career that allowed me to develop. I was also able to learn from my very talented teammates.
“Coach Mike Albert would take time away from his personal life to come in for various one-on-one practices that really helped me improve quickly,” added the 6-foot-5 Dale, who like his brother, plays left side. “And, since our team would often play in tournaments against older age groups, we were used to playing at a very high level. This helped when I got to the Royal Military College because I was able to adapt quickly to playing with, and against, players who were much older than me. Overall, I was well prepared for university life and my experiences at Pakmen contributed to it.”
Dale was an instant success for the Paladins, being named to the CIS All-Rookie team. It was the first time any athlete from RMC was selected to a CIS rookie team.
“That was a huge honor for me,” revealed Dale. “At the end of my first year with the Paladins, my team voted me in as team captain, which was a humbling experience.”
Dale remained captain for three years and has been named to the OUA East All-Star team each year.
In his third year, Dale was awarded a scholarship that recognizes the top overall varsity athlete at RMC. And, in his four years at RMC, Dale played in 74 straight matches without ever missing a single set.
Dale graduates from RMC with the all-time school records in points (885.5) and kills (773), and a single-game record of 31 points set in his final home game against Trent.
Dale also represented the Military National Team for two years, winning gold at the World Military Championships in Amsterdam in 2017 and being named the tournament’s MVP.
Last year, Dale represented Canada in Edmonton, and in October, Dale will attend the World Games in China.
All great recollections to go hand-in-hand with his experiences with the Pakmen.
“I had three great years with Pakmen, but there are a few that stand out,” said Dale. “In my first year, we traveled to Sherbrooke, and won the 16U National Championship. What’s unique about that win is that almost all of our teammates played in the final because coach Mike had so much confidence in us. This experience was surreal and one that I will always remember.
“Another great moment was winning the OVA U17 Provincial Championship the very next year,” continued Dale. “In my 18U season, we did not win a gold medal at Provincials or Nationals, but we did make Pakmen history; winning the Chicago Open tournament where there were 70 teams, and winning the Penn State Open Tournament a few weeks later. We became the first Canadian team to ever win gold in Chicago and definitely the first Canadian team to win two major American tournaments in one year. I thoroughly enjoyed my three years playing for Pakmen and having Mike Albert as a coach.”
Still, volleyball isn’t Dale’s greatest passion. One could say Dale’s head has always been in the clouds.
“I have always wanted to be a pilot since I can remember. I started flying when I was 11 and on my 14th birthday, I flew solo for the first time as this is the minimum age in Canada. This made me the youngest pilot in Canada for at least that day! I now have my Private Pilot License and my favorite hobby is to take friends and family up flying. The moment I first stepped foot in a cockpit, I knew I would make a career out of flying.”
Now, Dale will follow his grandfather, Lt.-Cmdr. Frederick Henry Scott Hooper, into the military.
“My grandfather was a naval aviator in WW2 with the Royal Canadian Navy,” Dale says proudly. “He flew off of aircraft carriers for years after the war as well. Unfortunately, he passed away just a few months after I was born. I obviously don’t remember meeting him, but flying must be in the blood. I think my grandfather definitely played a role in my desire to attend RMC because the military has always interested me.”
Dale will graduate in May with a degree in Business Administration, and will begin pilot training in Manitoba this summer as a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Air Force.
“My grandfather will always be part of my journey as a pilot.”
And so, says Dale, will be his brother.
“Growing up, Chris and I definitely had our differences, but we were always quite close. Now that we are nearing the end of our university years, we are very close and love hanging out whenever we can. Chris is a lot more school-oriented than me as he is taking Mechanical Engineering whereas my passion has always been with flying. Originally, his passion for volleyball was a lot stronger than mine, but through his influence, I have come to love the sport as well. Most of our mannerisms are pretty similar and growing up, a lot of people thought we were twins.”
Also closely following Chris and Dale will be their parents.
“After Chris transferred to U of T, we had the opportunity to play each other twice this season, but Chris showed me whose boss as we lost to his team both times. Our parents had to cheer for both RMC and U of T at the same time so we’ll always remember those matches. It was cool to both be named as OUA East All-Stars this year.
“Ever since I started playing, my parents have been my No. 1 fans,” continued Dale. “During my RMC career, they attended the majority of my matches even if it was a far trip. They even cut out a ‘big head’ of my face, which they would bring to the games and try to embarass me. My mother even made the trip out to Amsterdam and Edmonton when I was playing with Team Canada in the various military world championships. I can’t thank my parents enough for all the support over the years. Seeing them in the crowd always puts a smile on my face and I definitely would not be the person, or player, I am today without them. Thanks Mom and Dad.”
The following is a full list of award and medal winners.
OUA East First Team All-star
Xander Ketrzynski (Ryerson); Jordan Figuera (U of T); Chris Towe (U of T); Lauren Veltman (Ryerson)
OUA West First Team All-star
Jackson Bere (Western)
OUA East Second Team All-star
Jenna Woock (U of T); Cailin Wark (Ryerson); Julia Wiercigroch (Queen’s); Dale Towe (RMC); Navreet Suhan (Ryerson); Andrew Tauhid (York)
OUA West Second Team All-star
Craig Ireland ( McMaster)
OUA East All-Rookie Team
Saad Shaikh (Ryerson); Xander Ketrzynski (Ryerson)
OUA West All-Rookie Team
Jackson Bere (Western); Tyler Pavelic (McMaster)
OUA East Player of the Year
Xander Ketrzynski (Ryerson)
OCAA Player of the Year
Janelle Albert (Fanshawe)
OCAA West First Team All-Star
Zach Albert (Fanshawe); Liam Butchereit (Sheridan)
Canada West Second Team All-Star
Taryq Sani (Alberta)
AUS First Team All-Star
Lucy Glen-Carter (Acadia)
RSEQ First Team All-Star
Ethan Ellison (Laval)
USPORTS Rookie of the Year
Xander Ketrzynski (Ryerson)
CCAA Player of the Year
Janelle Albert (Fanshawe)
Janelle Albert (Fanshawe)
CCAA First Team All-Star
Janelle Albert (Fanshawe)
Queen’s University — Men’s OUA Gold Medalists
Malcolm Prentice, Jonathan Reid
McMaster University — Men’s OUA Silver Medalists
Tyler Pavelic, Thomas Williams, Craig Ireland
U of T — Women’s OUA Gold Medalists
Ryerson — Women’s OUA Silver Medalists
Cailin Wark, Lauren Veltman, Teadora Vukovic, Alicia Lam
Waterloo Women’s OUA Bronze Medalists
Laval — Men’s USPORTS Bronze Medalists
Ryerson — Women’s USPORTS Silver Medalists
Cailin Wark, Lauren Veltman, Teodora Vukovic, Alicia Lam
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