Two Tommies men’s volleyball star players, Stephane and Marc Blinn, will be moving on from the team after graduation. But the two highly distinguished athletes haven’t always been volleyball fans.
In fact, they only started playing in middle school.
The twins grew up in Nasonworth, a small community outside Fredericton. It was only in Grade 7 at École Sainte-Anne when they took an interest in the game. The duo had never played before and wanted to try out for the school team.
The coach at the time, Henri Mallet, knew their sister was a talented volleyball player. So they said Mallet decided give the brothers the opportunity to try their hand at volleyball.
They fell in love with it.
“My favorite aspect of volleyball would be the challenge that the sport brings. Like any sport, it takes years to develop great volleyball technique,” said Marc.
“I love that volleyball is a technical sport where it takes years to refine your skill. There is nothing I like better than to watch two technically sound teams playing each other,” Stephane added.
When they graduated from ESA, Stephane and Marc both decided St. Thomas University was the university for them. They were also looking forward to joining the STU men’s volleyball team. The twins knew some of the coaching staff and thought playing at STU would be much more enjoyable than anywhere else.
“STU volleyball has been different from other schools because of the coaches,” Marc said. “Francis Duguay had been influencing us to come to STU throughout high school. We knew going in what we were expecting for coaching staff.”
In volleyball, Stephane is an outside hitter, while Marc plays the setter position.
They agreed being brothers on the same team makes them harder on each other, both on and off the court. This is because they each know what the other can take, and they’re similar when it comes to handling criticism.
“[Stephane] knows what he has to do and I know what I have to do,” said Marc. “I just have to look at him and he knows what I’m thinking.”
Out of the two of them, Stephane is the oldest by nine minutes, to be exact. They admitted that they never get sick of spending time together, and it’s rare for them to be apart for an extended period of time. Throughout their years at STU the two have even shared every class together except two.
Stephane and Marc both wanted to major in Criminology, and they had a goal set for themselves to enter the RCMP at the end of their university days.
“Just knowing that the RCMP is world-renowned for being a very professional police force appealed to both of us,” said Marc. “Having our father and brother-in-law both in the force influenced us to go down that route. Knowing that the red surge that the RCMP members wear is a sign of national identity pulls us towards that type of career.”
Marc and Stephane not only share a love for volleyball, but they also enjoy spending their summers in the Canadian Reserve Forces. Both are planning to graduate from STU this spring with a major in criminology and a minor in French, and their plans for after graduation are still to join the RCMP.
Marc and Stephane are firm believers of putting in the hard work to be successful, be it on or off the court.
They agreed they share a pet peeve when they see teammates not trying to improve their game.
“You should want to be the best you can possibly be,” Marc said about working hard and using leisure time to take your game to the next level.
“You should want to be great, not just good.” Stephane said, adding to his brother’s comment.
Playing four years of elite volleyball can bring one plenty of memories, both good and bad. Naturally, when asked to pick a favorite moment while playing with the Tommies, both Stephane and Marc struggled to pick just one.
“Winning three championships with a great group of guys would be one,” Stephane said of STU’s three consecutive ACAA titles between 2014 and 2016.
It’s clear Marc and Stephane have had a successful four years playing with the STU men’s volleyball team, not only as a team, but also as individual players.
Both twins have received several awards.
In 2014, Marc took home Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association Rookie of the Year, as well as STU Men’s Volleyball Rookie of the Year. In 2015, he received ACAA all-conference honours and was named a Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association All-Canadian.
Last season, Marc won a handful of awards, including ACAA All-Conference player, ACAA All-Canadian player, STU Men’s Volleyball MVP and STU Male Athlete of the Year.
In 15 matches, Marc averaged 0.15 kills per set. He enjoyed a hitting percentage of .053 and put up eight kills, 411 assists, 87 digs and 18 blocks. Marc ended this season by being chosen to the ACAA all-star team.
“I have to say getting recognized for the hard work that Steph and I have put towards volleyball for the past four years is very appreciated,” said Marc. “We strive to always do our very best in whatever we do. I feel very proud to get recognized with my brother for the hard work that we do.”
Last season, Stephane received the ACAA All-Conference all-star award. He finished this season by taking home several awards, including, ACAA MVP, ACAA All-Conference all-star and CCAA All-Canadian player.
On the scoresheet, Stephane also put up decent numbers in the 2016-17 campaign. In 14 matches, Stephane averaged 4.14 kills per set, had a hitting percentage of .256 and finished with 207 kills, seven assists and 100 digs, as well as 14 blocks.
“Marc and I play to the best of our abilities. I am proud of the awards we have won, however it is just a bonus for the hard work we put in,” said Stephane.
“If we didn’t win the awards I wouldn’t mind because I just strive to be my best, but we are incredibly grateful for the recognition the ACAA and the CCAA has given us.”
Stephane and Marc both had the same answers when asked if they’d like to continue on with volleyball, and whether they’d take on a task like coaching. They said they love volleyball, but can’t see themselves coaching anytime soon.
The Tommies men’s volleyball season ended with a 9-6 win-loss record, good for fourth in the ACAA.
STU managed to reach the ACAA semifinals, but the Tommies fell short and ended up suffering a tough loss to the University of New Brunswick Saint John Seawolves Saturday, Feb. 25.
STU’s numbers this season might have not been ideal, and Stephane and Marc said the Tommies could have done better this season, but overall, they were satisfied that they did as well as they did.
“We did the best we could with what we had,” Stephane said.
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