By Jessica Bednarski
For two years, 15-year-olds Andi Almonte and Justine Kolody have competed against each other on different volleyball teams. But this summer, Andi and Justine are teammates who are looking forward to competing together at the 2019 Western Canada Summer Games in Swift Current, Saskatchewan during week two, from August 14-18.
From why they began playing volleyball, to how they prep for Games, Andi and Justine have a lot in common, so it is no surprise that they have become great friends since they began playing for the same volleyball team this year.
Andi began playing volleyball just five years ago because she was inspired by her older sister Abigail. Similarly, Justine picked up a volleyball when she was 11 because she loved watching her sister Gillian play. Both inspired by their sisters, Andi and Justine have been playing volleyball ever since. From the backyard, to school teams and now club teams.
With sisters and incredible coaches to look up to, the girls have no shortage of inspiration and support driving them to continue to succeed in their sport. Both Andi and Justine acknowledge just how great of an impact their coach Bruce Boroski has had on them.
Andi was only 12-years-old when she began training with Boroski and says that he has helped her a lot, both as a mentor and as a coach.
“He has always stuck by my side and stood up for me” she said.
Boroski has had a similar positive influence on Justine as well. After only training with Boroski for the past year, Justine recognizes what an immense impact her coach has had on her in such a short amount of time.
“Bruce saw potential in me as a setter, and has helped me grow so much this past season.”
For both of the girls, it would not be game day without a few pre-game rituals. For Justine, she always makes sure she has a good ponytail in her hair, which comes from her days training as a rhythmic gymnast. Once her hair is in place, Justine makes sure she is stretched out and then she tries to visualize exactly what she will need to do in order to win the game.
Meanwhile, Andi likes to be alone, listen to music, and just like Justine, she likes to visualize how she thinks the game will go. Getting in the right headspace before a game is a top priority for Andi and Justine, and so is their drive to do well.
The girls are in their final weeks of practice before the WCSG begin and the excitement is building every day among the team. The girls are excited for their team to have the opportunity to compete at Games, and they hope to return home with some medals, and with an even closer bond.
“My goals for this season would be for our team to gel and to become more than teammates, but instead like a family," Andi said.
Justine’s mom, dad and some of their friends plan to make it out to Swift Current this summer to watch the girls play live.
Andi’s parents will be cheering the girls on from home, hoping to catch some live feeds of the games. Even though they will be back in Winnipeg, Andi’s dad Antonio will paint his head like a volleyball - a family tradition in the Almonte household. The volleyball head is something Antonio has always done to show his support for Andi, and to put a smile on her teammates' faces.
Volleyball won't stop after the WCSG, as Justine will be heading to train with the U18 Youth National Team immediately following the Games, as she was selected to be an alternate for the team this year.
As for the future, the girls simply want to keep playing the sport they love, and both hope to continue to play well into university, where Justine aspires to become a teacher, and Andi hopes to become an engineer to continue her love of math and science.