First-team ACAA all-star and Mount Allison MVP Sydney Umlah is the consummate teammate and leader on the volleyball court. Umlah is originally from Maple Ridge, B.C., but enrolled at Mt. A due to her admiration for the East Coast. Both of her parents went to Dalhousie, but when touring Atlantic universities Umlah knew that Mt. A was the perfect school for her. Umlah loves the small class sizes and the ability to form close relationships with professors. The congested schedule of a varsity athlete does not detract from Umlah’s passion for school, specifically her major in biology and her double minor in international politics and biochemistry. The volleyball team practise two or three times per week, in the morning and at night, in addition to playing one or two games every weekend.
Umlah was a latecomer to volleyball – her sport of choice was originally horse riding. Umlah only started to play volleyball when she was 14. She used all of her 5’10” frame to her advantage as she improved at an impressive rate. The late start has not held her back, however. Umlah has been an essential asset to the Mt. A volleyball team for four years.
In her role as middle blocker, Umlah helped guide the team to a 12-9 record and to the semifinals of the ACAA tournament this year. Umlah looks back on her varsity volleyball career with fondness, but also looks ahead to the future of the team with anticipation. “The team [was] really happy with 12-9 record, which was the same record as the fourth- and third-placed teams.” Umlah’s impeccable team ethic shines through when talking about her teammates. “We had lots of youth this year, and lots of opportunity for everyone to contribute. All the girls next year are working really hard in the off-season already. Every single player improved, and they will carry that into next year.” However, do not let Umlah’s composed court demeanor and kind words deceive you. She is a fiery competitor who does not like to lose. She attributes a lot of the team success to coach Paul Settle, who echoes her drive and determination to succeed.
Team success and player development is what drives Umlah more so than individual accolades. “Admittedly, it is nice to be recognized, but my contribution to team success is far more important. I do not care about individual accolades.” This team-centric mentality is what makes Umlah a leader on the court. “Volleyball is the quintessential team sport; you can’t have one star player like in basketball. The front and back have to work together, not one individual is the focus.” Umlah looks to carry her education and the communication skills she has acquired playing volleyball back to British Columbia as she finds her niche in the scientific community.