Esther Lim has come a long way since arriving at South Delta Secondary from Pebble Hill Elementary and making the Grade 8 girls’ volleyball team.
“I was the only under-hand server on our team. I was not very good,” Lim laughed in a recent interview with the Optimist.
Fast forward to four years later and Lim has been recognized among the top high school age players in the country, as one of just 18 athletes named to Volleyball Canada’s National Excellence Program (NEP). She is one of only three players from B.C. selected following an extensive evaluation process.
Based out of the Richmond Olympic Oval, NEP provides a full-time daily training environment to Grade 11 and 12 players from September through to December 2022. In addition to providing technical and tactical training in line with the Senior Women’s National Team, NEP will also provide competition opportunities with local and college programs, strength and conditioning, nutrition education, mental performance and well-being, as well as ongoing educational support.
“The level of talent across Canada was quite high and these 18 athletes that have been selected are exceptional athletes. It is an exciting time for women’s volleyball in Canada and I can’t wait to get started working with the next generation of national team athletes,” said NEP Head Coach, Carolyn O’Dwyer.
“This is such an important program for our Women’s National Team in identifying and developing our top talent in Canada at a young age. We were fortunate to return to in-person talent identification for the first time since 2019, and the ability to engage with athletes and coaches from across the country is a huge benefit of this program,” explains women’s National Team Head Coach Shannon Winzer.
A difficult decision
Even though the Olympic Oval is a short commute from Tsawwassen, NEP is a full-time commitment and Lim won’t be returning to SDSS until next January to finish her Grade 12 year.
It means the Sun Devils will be without their standout libero next fall as they take aim at a provincial AAAA title after dropping a five-set heartbreaker in the gold medal match last December. Lim admits missing out on that opportunity did weigh in her decision.
“When I had to make the decision, it was very, very hard because I knew I had to give up the high school season,” Lim continued. “I know with the girls (coming) back next year it’s going to be an amazing team and I was really, really looking forward to the season. But in the end, I feel this was a big opportunity that if I do pass on it, I would regret it.”
Lim is coming off her club season with the Coquitlam-based Ducks program and there will be Volleyball Canada activity in July, leading up to the NEP launch. She established herself as a libero (defensive specialist) after she hurt her ankle back in the summer of her Grade 9 year and it limited her jumping ability as an outside hitter. She hasn’t looked back since.
“After my Grade 8 season, I didn’t even know club volleyball was a thing back then until my friends introduced me to it. The injury was a blessing in disguise because I’m too short to be an outside hitter at this level,” she chuckled. I got to see some of the (NEP) girls at (club) nationals (in Edmonton). They were so amazing that I thought ‘I’m I really going to be playing with these guys?’”