RSS Feed

Ontario Summer Games: Beach volleyball duo share Olympic dreams

Tori Gorrell

JOSEPH HALL/TORONTO STAR Lauren Sanderson, left, of London, Ont., and Tori Gorrell of Oakville are among the best beach volleyball players in the province. The two have been paired as a team at the Ontario Summer Games.

The sun is shining, the hip hop’s blaring. You’ve got beach sand on your feet.

It’s so cool to be a kid in summer.

And it’s especially so if you’re among the best beach volleyball players in the province.

That just happens to be the case for Tori Gorrell, 15, and Lauren Sanderson, 16, who have been paired as a team for the province’s London-based Region 3 in the Ontario Summer Games.

The two were participating in the first round of the Games’ two-day tournament at Ashbridges Bay on Friday as a favourite for a podium placement.

They’re amazing,” says their coach Julia Hall, a two-time Ontario Games volleyball player herself.

“Lauren is a solid all-around player. She’s going to go places with volleyball for sure . . . and Tori is a fantastic player already with a ton of potential.”

Both girls hope to take their game on to national team berths and university scholarships.

“In beach, if you want to go far, you have to have the passion,” says Gorrell, whose father Miles was an all-star lineman for five CFL teams between 1978 and 1996.

“I’d like to go to the worlds and the Olympics and I’ve gotten 13 interest letters from universities in the States.”

Sanderson, already a member of the provincial squad in her age group, has Olympic dreams herself and expresses an unabashed passion for the game.

“I love how it’s such a combined effort, like you’re so together with your team, yet you all have a little chance at the spotlight as an individual,” she says. “It’s also very goal oriented . . . and I just love the atmosphere — everyone has the same kind of drive and determination.”

Sanderson, from London, and Gorrell, from Oakville, only began playing together this week.

But they’re already gelling as a team, Hall says, and becoming BFFs to boot.

“Oh yeah, best friends,” the pair chime up in unison when asked about their burgeoning relationship.

Like so many of the 2,500 athletes participating in these Games, Gorrell and Sanderson also excel academically, with the former sporting an 85 per cent average last year and the latter 95.

Far from detracting from her class work, however, Sanderson says her gruelling training and tournament schedule enhances her school work.

“I think if it weren’t for volleyball I wouldn’t know how to do school as well as I do,” she says. “I think it teaches me how to stay organized. It teaches you for sure that you need to get things done.”

Hall says the girls each put in at least 10 hours of practice a week and play indoors or in beach tournaments virtually every weekend.

“The only way they can be competitive is playing those full-day tournaments,” she says.

For Hall, 30, her Ontario Games experience launched a lifelong love of volleyball and athletic competition.

“The first time I ever actually played really competitive volleyball was in the Summer Games,” Hall says. “It got those competitive juices flowing and I wanted to keep doing it. It hooks them, the Summer Games are awesome for that.”

Sanderson, Gorrell and Hall are among 3,400 athletes, coaches and officials who have gathered in Toronto this week for the Games, which conclude Sunday. – Sports