DAVID LARKINS, Wesmen Athletics
They are words from a coach's mouth spoken five years ago but they still linger in Taylor Cangemi's mind.
And she's never letting go of them.
Cangemi is the latest addition to the 2020 recruiting class for UWinnipeg Wesmen women's volleyball, a 5-foot-1 libero from Calgary who had interest from a variety of U Sports institutions before visiting and falling in love with Winnipeg.
There is no doubt from head coach Phil Hudson that Cangemi, despite a diminutive frame, has the versatile skill set and tenacity to adjust to the university game.
But the player has heard plenty of doubters over the years, a collection of voices she's now archived in her mind to serve as the steam to power her dreams.
Like that coach from five years ago.
"When I was in 13U, I tried out for a 14U team and … after the first 10 minutes of warm-up," Cangemi said, "the coach pulled me aside and said, 'Hey I just want to tell you that your chances of making this team are fairly slim because I can teach tall people how to play volleyball, but I can't teach short people how to be tall.'
"That phrase has fueled me for so many years now, you have no idea.
"…I believe hard work and perseverance and determination and being a strong leader and every other attribute that I have makes me the player that I am and makes me be able to play at this level regardless of my height. My height does not matter, because I have so much more to bring to the table."
An honour roll student at Lord Beaverbrook High School, the 18-year-old Cangemi has won multiple medals at the club provincial and national ranks and was a Calgary high school all-star as a senior in 2019-20.
And she doesn't lack for preparedness. On the recruiting trail she offered print and electronic versions of an athletic-achievement resume, which was accompanied by YouTube recruiting videos. Those were carried out by Cangemi's own legwork to seek out schools across Canada that could help her in both her athletic and academic pursuits.
She visited a handful of Canada West schools, finishing with UWinnipeg in March a week before pandemic quarantines hit.
No matter. She knew she'd found her new home.
"That visit was what completely finalized my decision," she said.
"… I really found that the team culture was awesome. They worked hard but it wasn't intimidating, it wasn't overwhelming, they welcomed me. And I just felt like I belonged there."
Cangemi has proven herself a willing and capable volleyball player, no matter the ask. As a senior at Lord Beaverbrook, she played outside and middle, tasks that only allowed her to improve her on-court acumen and appreciation for all six spots on the floor.
"Definitely completely different than what I'm used to," she said. "… It was definitely not my ideal situation to train for club, but it was really cool to see the game from a different perspective."
Hudson, who Cangemi said stayed in consistent contact with her during the recruiting process and continues to keep tabs through the summer months, has high praise for his newest recruit.
"She is an amazing kid and she gained my trust and confidence in a very short time when I met her in person," Hudson said. "She's mature and very dedicated to personal excellence in all aspects of her life. Athletically she is quick, fearless on defence and has the mindset that will make her an excellent U Sports libero."
Cangemi joins a recruiting class that includes Transcona middle blocker Christine Kolbuck, Leo Remillard setter Breanne Bazin, Dakota middle blocker and left side Taylor McGillivray and Jaya Dzikowicz, Surrey, B.C., left side Alysha Goundrey and Sturgeon Heights libero Nya Krauchi.