Spotlight - Lucas Van Berkel

LANGLEY, British Columbia - Trinity Western men’s volleyball coach Ben Josephson knew he had something special when he signed Lucas Van Berkel on Mar. 1, 2009.

However, the fact Van Berkel signed with TWU surprised many. The 6-foot-9 product, who hails from Edmonton, spent his formative volleyball years playing for the Northern Alberta Volleyball Club (NAVC); a club primarily run by the Alberta Golden Bears and essentially seen as a feeder system to the University’s men’s program. Naturally, Van Berkel, a standout middle athlete with great size and potential, was assumed to be on track for the green and gold jersey.

“I got a lot of pressure growing up in the NAVC system to go to Alberta,” Van Berkel said. “As a player in that environment, I didn’t really know anything else. The goal to be a Golden Bear was something that just came with the territory.”

Van Berkel attended Edmonton Christian High School, a private school he went to from kindergarten through Grade 12.

As high school progressed, Van Berkel began establishing himself as one of the top recruits in Canada, causing dreams of post-secondary play to become a reality.

While he had plenty of options, it was through fellow Edmonton Christian alumnus and now TWU alumnus, Josh Doornenbal, that TWU entered the picture.

“Josh was a big reason as to how I heard and learned about Trinity Western,” Van Berkel said. “He came home in the summer and I was able to talk with him and heard only good things about the school.”

Van Berkel was also attracted to the private Christian school aspect of TWU, something he had become accustomed to at Edmonton Christian.

From there, it didn’t take long for Van Berkel to make a connection with Josephson.

“I remember seeing this massive kid at a 16U tournament,” Josephson said. “Then I asked some further questions and found out his last name was Dutch, and that he came from the same school as Josh Doornenbal. I was very interested.”

After months of introductory meetings and conversations, Van Berkel flew out to TWU in November of his Grade 12 year to experience the school and the atmosphere first hand.

“I felt so welcomed by the University and by the team specifically,” Van Berkel said. “I could immediately sense a positive feeling on campus, but what caught my attention most was how close the team was, and how inviting the guys were towards me.”

Fast forward a few months to March 2009 and the weekend of the CIS National Championship, which was hosted the Edmonton-based Golden Bears.

While the Spartans season came to an early end in the Canada West playoffs, Josephson still found himself in Edmonton as he was there to help commentate for the national tournament. It was on that trip he hoped to hear a final decision from Van Berkel.

“He was delaying his commitment,” Josephson said. “That is always concerning considering the fact that he grew up in Edmonton, played with NAVC, and his mom went to high school with Terry Danyluk, the head coach of Alberta. I was beginning to think we may have lost him.”

Josephson planned to have dinner with Van Berkel and his family after the national championship match; a choice which could have caused much regret given the circumstances.
Alberta had made the gold medal match and was playing against the Laval Rouge et Or. With a maximum capacity crowd filling the gym, all screaming in their green and gold attire, the Golden Bears defeated Laval 3-0, which capped an undefeated season. Van Berkel was there for it all.

“I didn’t have much confidence that he was going to sign with us after that,” Josephson said. “An 18-year-old kid, immersed in an environment like that, I thought that was all he needed to make the choice to go with U of A.”

Sitting down to dinner, Van Berkel was full of emotions having just witnessed a scene of countless fans flooding the Alberta floor.

“I told Ben that night at dinner I wanted to come to Trinity Western,” Van Berkel said. “Although Alberta was tempting after that night, I knew deep down that Trinity Western was where I needed to be. It was a gut instinct that I couldn’t shake.”

And listening to that gut instinct has been a decision that has shaped Van Berkel and given him great opportunities for success.

Starting in just his second year of eligibility, largely due to injuries, he was forced to develop quickly. In that “developmental” year, he set a Canada West record for blocks per set, racking up 1.60 per set.

He has only progressed from there, becoming one of the most dominant middles both in attacking and blocking, while earning two CIS national championship gold medals, in 2011 and 2012, as well as a Canada West gold medal in 2012.

Now, a fourth-year athlete, Van Berkel has become a rock in which the Spartans have leaned on and built upon.

“If there is one word to sum up Lucas, it is consistent,” Josephson said. “He is the centre for all that we do. We believe in our block to score, and he does just that. We believe in our offense to use him either to kill the ball or to draw a lot of attention from opposing teams. But he is also emotionally consistent. He doesn’t get too crazy on the court, yet he is always positive and there for his teammates.”

As a starter for the Canadian Junior National team for two years, and a starter for Canada’s Senior ‘B’ team this past summer, Van Berkel has established himself internationally.

“I want to attend the Canadian full-time training centre after my five years are done here,” Van Berkel said. “And if I am fortunate enough, I would love to play pro after that. I want to go as far as I can with volleyball.”

The humble Van Berkel should have no problem finding a professional contract, as well as a spot on Canada’s Senior ‘A’ team. In the coming years, he could well become a key starter for Canada, with hopes of one day grabbing one last gold medal. Olympic gold.

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Last Updated: 2013-01-18
Author: Jarrod Offereins