Farnaaz Johal’s recruitment announcement to Simon Fraser University

BURNABY, BC – After leading the SFU Clan volleyball team to the best season in history, highlighted by the program’s first-ever berth to the NCAA Division II Championship, head coach Gina Schmidt announced the addition of four recruits to the 2017 roster today.

Mia Ricci, Bianca Te, Julia Tays and Farnaaz Johal have signed National Letters of Intent during the early signing period to compete for Canada’s only NCAA volleyball team next season.

“We are very excited about the ability of this recruiting class to build off of the momentum from this past season,” said Schmidt. “We put a lot of time and effort into finding players with the skill, athleticism, character and work ethic that we’re looking for in our program and collectively this group checks all of those boxes.”

Mia Ricci who hails from Burnaby, comes to the Clan from Notre Dame Regional Secondary, where the five-time honour roll student captained her high school team three of the last four years. She was the AA high school league MVP in both 2013 and 2014, and was a league all-star in her junior and senior years. The 6-0 outside hitter also achieved success at the club level, winning three provincial silver medals with the Coquitlam Ducks in three years.

“SFU was an obvious first choice to me because of its high academic reputation and the volleyball program,” explained Ricci. “It has been a dream of mine to play in the NCAA and I am lucky enough to do so while getting a Canadian education and continue living in beautiful British Columbia.”

Ricci plans to study psychology in hopes of finding a career working with children in the future.
A long-time teammate of Ricci’s with the Ducks, Bianca Te will also suit up for the Clan in the fall. The 5-foot-7 libero was her high school league’s MVP this year and led her team to the top of the league in 2015. She also helped her club team to a second-place finish at the U17 BC Provincial Championships this past April and has been a provincial tournament all-star three years in a row. Academically, Te has earned the top 5 GPA in her class for the last five years and will be pursuing a Kinesiology major at Simon Fraser.

“A huge part of my decision was the coaching staff,” said Te. “After attending the SFU camp two summers ago, I knew instantly that Gina and Rob would be amazing coaches to look after me these next four years. SFU being the only Canadian school in the NCAA was also a big deciding factor – I’m ready to play against new faces and talents across the border. I love that challenge and it feels great to be able to represent Canada in this league.”

Winnipeg’s own Julia Tays joins the Simon Fraser program as a decorated high school athlete. She led the St. Mary’s Academy varsity team to back-to-back Manitoba 4A provincial titles and was named MVP of the championship in 2016. In club volleyball, Tays has been a provincial champion from the U13 through the U17 level. The 5-foot-10 setter is a three-time Volleyball Manitoba Female Player of the Year and was recently voted the number-two ranked player in the Winnipeg Sun’s annual coaches poll.

“It has always been a dream of mine to live on the West Coast and I love the Vancouver area,” Tays stated. “SFU offers great academics, plays in a competitive volleyball league and has great coaches along with a supportive athletic program so I am excited for what’s in store for me in the fall.” Tays is interested in studying in either the Faculty of Environment or the School of Business.

Farnaaz Johal, from Penticton, BC, was the senior girls’ volleyball team MVP at Princess Margaret Secondary from 2015-2017. The 6-foot-1 middle blocker has been a member of the UBCO Junior Heat volleyball club since 2014 and was on Team BC in 2015 and 2016.

“The amazing coaching staff along with the school offering the NCAA experience in Canada attracted me to SFU,” said Johal. “Academics is also very important to me and so that along with the location of the school are two things I love about SFU.” Johal is an honour roll student and intends on earning a business or political science degree at Simon Fraser.

Of the four recruits, Ricci, Tays and Johal were members of the Canadian Youth National Development Program that trained in Whistler over the summer of 2015, where Schmidt served as a member of the coaching staff. Additionally, Ricci, Te and Johal have experience playing with each other on Team BC. “There is a level of familiarity among these four thanks to their various club, provincial and youth national team experiences,” Schmidt explained. “We think this will help them make a smooth transition into the Clan family next fall.”

With the graduation of libero Alison McKay, setter Tamara Nipp, and outside hitters Emma Jennings and Devon May, seniors who played critical roles in lifting SFU to its first-ever postseason berth, Schmidt will count on her returning players as well as these four young talents to build on the success of 2016.

“It’s not easy replacing four experienced seniors but our 2017 recruiting class is a perfect compliment to a deep group of returners looking to take our program to the next level,” finished Schmidt. “All in all, I couldn’t be happier with the potential of this group and for the future of our program.”

2017 Recruiting Class

  • Mia Ricci – Burnaby, BC
  • Position > Outside Hitter
  • Height > 5’11”
  • High School > Notre Dame Regional Secondary
  • Club Team > Coquitlam Ducks

Schmidt: “Mia has proven she is one of the top outside hitters in the province. She is accustomed to carrying a large offensive load for her high school and club teams and she is a consistent presence in the back row as well. Mia has the athleticism and all around skill set to make an immediate impact on our program.”

  • Bianca Te – Burnaby, BC
  • Position > Libero
  • Height > 5’7″
  • High School > St. Thomas More Collegiate
  • Club Team > Coquitlam Ducks

Schmidt: “We are looking forward to having Bianca continue a strong defensive tradition at SFU. Having older sisters who played, Bianca has been around the sport from a young age and it is evident in her ability to read the game. She is not only a great volleyball player but an excellent student and teammate as well.”

  • Julia Tays – Winnipeg, MB
  • Position > Setter
  • Height > 5’10”
  • High School > St. Mary’s Academy
  • Club Team > University of Winnipeg Jr. Wesmen / University of Manitoba Jr. Bison

Schmidt: “Julia comes to us as one of the top setters in Manitoba. We believe she is a perfect fit for our program both athletically and academically. Julia has the ability to spread the ball from pin to pin and she is also a consistent offensive threat herself. We anticipate that Julia’s wealth of experience and high volleyball IQ will allow her to quickly adapt to the NCAA game.”

  • Farnaaz Johal – Penticton, BC
  • Position > Middle Blocker
  • Height > 6’1″
  • High School > Princess Margaret Secondary
  • Club Team > UBCO Junior Heat

Schmidt: “We are excited to have Farnaaz joining us from the Okanagan region. She brings a great competitive spirit and a strong physical presence to the court. We will look for her to provide us with big kills and an imposing block. Farnaaz has been a middle blocker for the majority of her career but with her ability to attack off one foot, we may explore the option of her on the right-side as well.”
Be sure to follow the Clan volleyball team on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@SFU_Volleyball) for the latest news, behind-the-scenes content and more throughout the offseason.