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Defending champion T-Birds to welcome four new recruits for 2024-25 season

VANCOUVER – The two-time defending U SPORTS National Champion UBC Thunderbirds are set to welcome four outstanding players to their ranks ahead of the 2024-25 season.

Outside hitter Alexandra Turner-Malinek, libero Daphne Demiryol, middle blocker Leonora Barbulovich-Nad and transfer libero Bronwyn Ettinger are all set to don the blue and gold and begin to make their own marks on Canada’s most successful university volleyball program.

Having graduated seven players from the 2024 championship team, there will be plenty of opportunity for both returning veterans and rookies alike to step up and make a serious impact on what is a much younger team than has been the case the last several years.

“Several of them were here for three national championships, many of them for two,” said UBC head coach Doug Reimer on the team’s most recent graduates. “Opportunities may present themselves with a smaller roster. But my message to our recruit class is they still have to go through that transition process to becoming a university student-athlete. But more than anything, it’s more up to our returning players for how they set the standard to help the incoming players.”

Daphne Demiroyl
Daphne Demiryol

Alexandra Turner-Malinek joins her hometown Thunderbirds having played for both her high school team at South Delta Secondary, as well as the Seaside Volleyball Club. The 6-foot-5 outside hitter brings the obvious asset of a physical presence at the net front, but her beach volleyball experience also gives her a solid overall skillset including passing and defensive play.

“She shows promising potential as a six-rotation pin hitter,” said UBC assistant coach Beathen Thomas. “Alexandra has the ability to attack the ball above the block and score in a variety of ways. Once she adjusts to the speed of the university attack she will be an effective blocker who could dominate at the net. Most importantly, she is a great person and teammate who works hard and brings a positive attitude to her team and the training environment.”

An honour roll student, All-Star and MVP award recipient in each of her last two seasons, Turner-Malinek is set to study Urban Forestry at UBC.

Daphne Demiryol will make the trek west from her hometown of Mississauga, Ontario where she played for the Titans Volleyball Association. The 5-foot-6 libero describes herself as a vocal leader and strong-willed defender who enjoys the thrill of pushing through a challenge with her teammates.

“She is coming in as a libero but is also setting for her club team. I really like her work ethic and general attitude which she’ll bring to our team,” said Reimer. “Given the lack of time she’s played as a libero, I really think she has a lot of potential to do well. Obviously there’s a need in our program having graduated both Kacey (Jost) and Victoria (D’Acre) so she has a big opportunity.”

Demiryol is looking to enter UBC’s Sauder School of Business this fall.

Toronto’s Leonora Barbulovich-Nad also heads west out of the Titans Volleyball Association. A 6-foot-3 middle blocker, she brings plenty of experience at a variety of levels, including time with the Team Ontario Elite program.

Helping her St. Clement’s team to their first Ontario provincial championship in school history, Barbulovich-Nad is also an ace in the classroom, boasting a 95 percent average.

“She’s come a bit later to the sport and has dealt through a couple injuries but I don’t see that as a negative, she has a lot of raw potential,” said Reimer. “Much like our other recruits, I think she can be a big part of our group going forward. She’s really dedicated to improving and like our other recruits, I’ve been really impressed with her academic performance as well. For me, personally, that indicates a well-rounded student-athlete who can succeed at the next level.”

Barbulovich-Nad is pursuing a degree in Neuroscience beginning in September.

Leonora Barbulovich-Nad
Leonora Barbulovich-Nad

Bronwyn Ettinger is transferring to UBC from MacEwan University where she played the last two seasons, finishing tenth in Canada West digs in 2023-24.

Due to her transfer status, the libero will spend the coming year as a redshirt, but will still be an impactful part of the team.

“She’s an engineering student and fortunately for us, UBC has the specific program which was not available at MacEwan,” Reimer explained. “She’s not just a high achiever academically, but she works incredibly hard and is going to be very impactful with our training, bringing experience and leadership to our team.”

Prior to beginning her Canada West career at MacEwan, Ettinger earned both provincial and national U18 championships. The Edmonton native has also competed with Team Alberta at the U17 and U19 Canada Cup.

The T-Birds will open up their new campaign in mid-October with the official 2023-24 Canada West schedule set to be released in the coming weeks.

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