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A Ray(a) of Sunshine

In just her second-year, women’s volleyball left side Raya Surinx has already accomplished a number of incredible feats with the Herd. 
Last year, she became the first player in 14 years to win national Rookie of the Year for the program, helping the Bisons advance to nationals for the first time since 2014. 
Under the tutelage of the legendary Ken Bentley, Michelle Sawatzky-Koop and others, Surinx developed into one of the country’s top six-row players as a true freshman. She led the team’s attack with 417 kills while tormenting the opposition with a dominant spin serve that resulted in 63 service aces. 
During the post-season, she was near unstoppable with over 20 kills in five of eight games, including a career-high 26 in a Canada West bronze medal win over Winnipeg that earned Manitoba the final spot at nationals. 
At nationals, she was named a tournament all-star, racking up 50 kills in three games, along with ten aces and 30 digs. 
Suffice to say, Surinx is a game-changing player at the U SPORTS level, and an invite to Team Canada’s NextGen program this past summer (where she saw significant playing time in two major tournaments) proves she’s one of the best players at her age group, not only in Canada, but the world. 
Taking a much deeper dive, Surinx is on pace to log program-altering numbers. 
Her 520 kills in less than a year-and-a-half is just 654 away from the modern-era record set by former national champ and Player of the Year Rachel Cockrell in 2015 (1174). She’s on pace to tally at least 2,085, which would place her in elite company. 
Dating back to old school scoring (changed to rally in 1999), only two players have logged more than 2000 kills in program history – Christine Toews, with 2,379 between 1988-93, and Loriann Ludwig (born Sawatzky), with 2,569 between 1990-95. 
And while it’s easy to get hung up on the numbers, it’s Surinx’s attitude that truly sets her apart.

She is always positive, coming to practices and games with the same smile and optimism every day, determined to get better but also to lift up those around her. 
Surinx doesn’t like to bring attention to herself. But her teammates have no problem pumping her up. 
“She’s super humble,” said team captain Light Uchechukwu
“She’s one of those people where you want her to succeed. You just want her to keep getting better and better because she’s so humble and so nice. She doesn’t even think she’s that good, which is crazy.”
“She’s definitely my best friend,” added libero Emma Benson
“We’ve gotten really close over the years. Getting to know her has been so amazing. She makes me a better person. She pushes me to be more energetic and positive, and always finds the good in things. I definitely wouldn’t want to do this without her.”

Emma Benson Raya Surinx 

The 2023-24 season has seen Surinx pick up where she left off. 
She leads the Canada West conference in kills (126) and kills per set (4.5), while totaling 152.5 total points. Additionally, Surinx has logged double-digit kills in every regular season game this year, including this past weekend against Mount Royal. 
Friday’s game was a dominant 3-0 performance. As always, cerebral setter Katreena Bentley got everyone involved (34 assists), and the Herd controlled play with a .359 hitting percentage and just nine errors. Surinx led the way with 18 kills and just four errors. 
‘She doesn’t crack under pressure’
Games like Friday are critical confidence builders, reminders of why Manitoba is nationally ranked, at No. 9. Their depth is incredible and they can take over games in an instant. 
The following night’s victory didn’t come as easily. Mount Royal recorded 22 assisted blocks, held Surinx to a .021 hitting percentage and were four points away from ending the game in four. 
But Manitoba kept battling. They didn’t back down in the face of adversity, especially Surinx. 
Even though she was blocked three times in the first ten points, and only had one kill on nine attacks, and five errors in the fourth, she didn’t relent. It was clear MRU was trying to shut her down whenever possible. The average player could get frustrated or in their own head – but Surinx is not the average player.
“She’s so composed, she doesn’t let the pressure get to her,” Benson remarked. 
“She knows people are trapping on her, even out of system. We lean on Raya in those important moments. She doesn’t crack under pressure at all. She thrives in it. I think as a teammate, anybody can learn from that.”
When her shot wasn’t working, Surinx got it done in other ways. 

She led the team with seven points in the first set, including four aces along with seven digs. Her service pressure and six-row play were a constant, and when MRU focused their attention to her, the Bisons flexed their depth. 
Uchechukwu had ten kills and eight digs, left side Andi Almonte had four kills, while Brenna Bedosky and Eve Catojo combined for 15 in the middle. 
Surinx’s early play at the service line boosted the energy of her side, and by game’s end, the team had 20 aces. 
The Herd’s service excellence included Ella Gray, who went on a run to help her side take the lead back late in the fourth. A Surinx ace – her eighth of the game which tied her career best – followed by a kill from the left by Uchechukwu eventually ended the set, forcing a fifth.
Surinx gave Manitoba a 4-3 lead in the battle to 15 on an impressive c-ball kill, and the hosts didn’t trail the rest of the way. The gritty five-set win improved Manitoba’s record to 6-2, as they continue to stake their claim as one of the west’s best. 

Raya Surinx
Surinx’s kill that marked the seventh point was one that’ll be mentioned all year. Out of system, she reached backwards for the attack, getting more than enough of the ball to smash it home. She added a blast off hands from the right to make it 10-5, and banked her team-high 16th kill on a cross-court shot to make it 11-6.
“Throughout the fourth and the fifth, especially with the way the game was going, we were all thinking one point at a time. We couldn’t let any past mistakes faze us,” said Uchechukwu. 
“I think [Surinx] did a great job of coming back, and kept swinging. She didn’t look phased at all. To get that kill where you’re falling backwards and can still power into it, that was a game-changer.”
Manitoba’s next series is against Thompson Rivers on the road. Follow along at this weekend.

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