Time and time again, Levi Olson has defied the odds over the course of his volleyball career.
“It’s definitely been a heck of a journey here,” said Olson. “I never really thought that I’d find myself in this position.”
If you asked Olson if this upcoming week would have been possible five years ago, the answer would have been ‘not likely.’
The University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s volleyball team veteran is now preparing to close out his post-secondary career on the biggest stage possible, competing at the U Sports Men’s Volleyball Championship in Hamilton, Ontario.
“It’s a goal that I’ve had my entire career,” said Olson. “It’s a goal that we’ve set this year as a team. Just to do it in my fifth year, it’s a pretty hard feeling to explain. I’m hoping that we can do as best we can and play the best volleyball that we can.”
Undersized compared to most other outside hitters, the six-foot-two-inch Olson went unsigned by Canada West programs after graduating from Centennial Collegiate.
Olson then played a year of college ball in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference with the Briercrest Clippers, before joining the Huskies in 2018.
Even more remarkably, Olson did so as walk-ons with both programs.
“Playing my first year in the ACAC at the college level and then being able to jump up a pretty big step to U Sports was a privilege and a pretty big opportunity for me,” said Olson.
While he wasn’t a five-star recruit coming out of high school, Olson has turned into one of Canada West’s top attackers being named to the conference’s second all-star team this season with 317 kills and 114 digs on the year.
He’s shared this journey with teammates Dylan Mortensen, Mark Armstron, Quinn Buchanan and Jake Rapin, who will all be closing out their Huskies careers in Hamilton as well.
Rapin has been the man to set up hundreds of Olson’s kills over the years and said that coupled with his teammate’s arm on the service line is what’s made their partnership so special.
“That kind of wins games for us,” said Rapin. “When he goes on those runs it’s pretty special to watch. For me, I’m just in front of him and I see the ball go over the net and I’m like, ‘Wow that’s a hard one.'”
In those five years, Olson is now mentoring the next wave of outside hitters to come through the U. Sask program, including breakout rookie Isaiah Mamer who said his relationship with Olson goes back to even before he joined the Huskies.
“I remember coming here before I was on the team watching him,” said Mamer. “He was kind of a role player first, big arm, big server. Now being able to be here in his fifth year playing side by side with him, just learning some things from him ripping a ball no matter what and stuff like that, I’m going to take that with me for a while here for the rest of my life.”
Friday’s opening set of nationals remains front of mind for the Saskatoon product, however he is hungry to savour his final weekend wearing a Huskies jersey and is determined to bring some hardware back to his hometown when all is said and done.
“It being my last year, obviously we want to enjoy it as best we can,” said Olson. “But, we also have a goal in mind and that’s to go as far as we can and to bring a medal home. We’ll do what we can on the floor, but also just trying to do my best to make the most of it and have some fun as well.”
Olson and the Huskies will open U Sports nationals on Friday at 4:00 pm Saskatchewan time against the host McMaster Marauders, with the winner moving on to Saturday’s semi-final games.