Playing volleyball for fun at York Mills CI took some getting used to for Asli Ersozoglu.
Travelling to Toronto from Istanbul, Turkey, Ersozoglu gave up a future professional career with Eczacibasi Sports Club to pursue an academic career in Canada.
“It was necessary for me to finish high school here so it’s easier going to a Canadian university,” the grade 11 student said.
Volleyball runs deep in her veins. Ersozoglu’s mother Petek played professionally and got her daughter involved in 2005 when she was in grade 4.
“What I like is it’s a sport where you can be creative,” Asli Ersozoglu said. “It’s not like a sport to me, it’s a lifestyle.”
The family moved to Canada during the summer months, which meant no high school sports and very few club teams were having tryouts.
“Before I moved to Canada a year ago, I started mailing to clubs,” she said. “And the Diamonds were the only club practising in summer, so while the other clubs told me to come to their tryouts in September, the Diamonds invited me to their summer practice.”
Once high school’s winter sports season started, senior girls co-coaches Steven Kung and Imants Koskins welcomed their new edition to a squad that ended up going 8-0 during the regular season.
Kung recalls the first time he witnessed Ersozoglu’s prowess.
“I remember during one lunchtime there was some sort of volleyball drop-in,” he said. “All the kids were just wearing jeans and I saw her pass a few balls, and then walked to the gym office and asked the teacher, ‘Who’s that?’ and they said, ‘I think it’s a new girl from Turkey’.”
“I said, ‘It looks like she’s got some mad skill’,” he added. “I saw from day one that her form was pretty money.”
That mad skill, as Kung puts it, helped York Mills out of a jam during their 2012 campaign.
“It was our first regular season game against Don Mills. We went to three sets and I think we were down 12-3 and Asli went up to serve,” he said. “I looked at my assistant coach (Koskins) and I said, ‘Hey, wouldn’t it be great if Asli served up the rest of the game’.
“We started laughing, and the next thing we know Asli served up the rest of the match and we won 15-12,” he added. “She went back and just served bomb aces and the girls converted.”
With 14 girls on the roster, helmed by captain and club player Maddie Glover, the Titans look to claim the North Region, and anything else would be “gravy on top”.
Ersozoglu’s love of volleyball, both inspired by her mom and Gizem Güresen of the Turkish national women’s team, was also what helped her bond with classmates.
“It’s a really neat school,” she said. “At my old school everyone was from Turkey but in this school … everyone’s from a different country,” she said. “I didn’t really feel different from other people.
“Before the school team tryout, I had maybe two or three friends,” she added. “But after the school team, the school became more familiar to me.”
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