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The rise of Talia Vydykhan

The story of how she became an AUS first-team women’s volleyball all-star

Born just 25 minutes away from Dalhousie University, Talia Vydykhan has become a two-time Atlantic University Sport (AUS) champion and hometown hero since she started playing for the Tigers. 

“The combination of her physicality, fearlessness and aggressive approach makes Talia a dominant force,’’ said Tessa Bulmer, assistant coach for the women’s volleyball team. 

Vydykhan is a 21-year-old fourth-year Dal student majoring in therapeutic recreation. She was born and raised in Hammonds Plains, N.S., a suburb of Halifax. 

This season, Vydykhan made first-team all-star for AUS women’s volleyball and was a recipient of the AUS player of the week award for the first week of February. 

Early years

Growing up, Vydykhan participated in other sports, the primary one being gymnastics. By the time Vydykhan turned 12-years-old, she said she was tall and had outgrown gymnastics, a sport that typically favours smaller athletes. 

She decided to play volleyball as she wanted to use her 6-feet-tall frame to her advantage. 

Vydykhan started taking the sport seriously in no time. In middle school, Vydykhan switched schools and started attending École Sécondaire du Sommet, a high school in Bedford, to focus on volleyball and develop her skills. She began attending morning practices and playing with some older girls. 

At that time, Vydykhan was in tournaments every weekend and played consistently with a group of girls she grew close to. She said that was when she learned how important the sport of volleyball was to her. She loved competing with her team, as she is a competitive person.  

University era

Now a Dal Tiger, Vydykhan has been showered with individual awards and achievements. Vydykhan ended this season with 194 kills, averaging 2.73 kills per set, a .133 hitting percentage and average of 3.2 points per set. She averaged the fourth most kills per set, was fifth in total kills and tied for fourth in average points per set. 

Bulmer said it’s Vydykhans’ fearlessness that sets her apart from other players.

“You can always count on Talia to hit the ball no matter where it’s being set from in big or small moments,” said Bulmer.

Vydykhan said most of her motivation to be great comes from the team.

“There’s not a single person on this team who doesn’t want to win,” said Vydykhan. “Everyone on the team is motivated by one another, I want to do well for my team [and] I don’t want to disappoint them.” 

In her first two years, Vydykhan rarely played, a common experience for younger athletes on university level sports teams. In her third season, she shared a starting spot with another player during the season.

That year, Vydykhan and the Tigers won the AUS title and the bronze at the U Sports volleyball championship in Vancouver.

Vydykhan said she started this season going through a bit of a funk mentally, not doing well on and off the court. However, when she felt better, she shined. 

“In the second half of the season, I got myself together and started to play more,” she said.

SUB: The journey continues

Vydykhan has been able to grow and improve her play not only this season but throughout her varsity career, and Bulmer has witnessed it all. 

Bulmer said Vydykhan’s growth over her four seasons has been incredible to watch as a coach. She mentioned how much every aspect of Vydykhan’s game has improved since her first year, and said she is a special athlete. 

The season for the Dalhousie women’s volleyball team ended Feb. 26, with a straight-set loss to Saint Mary’s University in the semifinals. This is the first year Dal has not won the AUS women’s volleyball championship after a streak of ten straight years from 2012-2023

Vydykhan said she plans on returning next year, and it’s safe to say she’ll be back looking to lead her team back to an AUS title.

“It was a hard fight in the end, and it didn’t go our way, but that just motivates us to work hard and come back stronger,” she said.

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