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Eitmontas’ Volleyball Journey Leads To Hall Of Fame

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The Parkland will be well represented when Volleyball Manitoba holds its Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Nov. 27 in Brandon.

Dauphin’s Tabi Eitmontas (nee Love) is one of five individuals who will be inducted, along with the 1992 to 1997 Goose Lake Raiders boys varsity team of Roblin.

Eitmontas learned of the upcoming honour about a month ago.

“They had notified us prior to the announcement going out on social media,” she said, adding she was a little surprised she would be going into the hall this year.

“But greatly honoured and just very excited. I’m also excited that it’s going to be held in Brandon and that my family will be able to attend,” she said.

Eitmontas began playing volleyball in Grade 6 with a club team simply known as Parkland, but later became the Vipers. She went on to play in middle school and high school, where she helped the Clippers win the provincial crown in 2009 on their home court, earning MVP honours.

Eitmontas credits her parents, Tanya and Jeremy, for getting her involved in the sport.

“My parents had a strong love for the game. My mom played in university and my dad began coaching shortly after I was born,” she said. “And so I had traveled with him when he coached in Gilbert Plains. So that kind of introduced me to the game and I got my feet wet, so to speak and decided to start playing it for myself.”

Learning the sport, she said, took a lot of hard work and long hours.

“My coaches, I’m so grateful that they were able to put those hours in with me,” she said, adding she had the natural advantage of her height, which helped. “And having my parents have that background knowledge, I was able to get a lot of extra coaching and reps in on the side, which definitely also helped,” she said.

In Grade 8, at the age of 13, Eitmontas began getting noticed by the national team program.

A year later she played in her first international tournament representing Canada.

“It was just the greatest honour. To be able to wear the Maple Leaf and standing there during O Canada is something that I’ll never forget, for sure,” she said, adding she felt a lot more pressure with it when she was younger, but as she got older and more experienced, she was just grateful for the opportunity.

Shortly after joining the national team program, she also started getting offers from different universities. It was while playing in the NCAA that she learned of the opportunities available to play professionally.

“When I got to university in the NCAA, I started hearing about playing professionally and the money you can make doing that. So that was when I decided to give this a try and see how it goes,” Eitmontas said.
Eitmontas played two years with the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers and transfered to UCLA in 2011, winning the national title that same year. She then turned pro and played professionally in Puerto Rico, Poland, Azerbaijan, Germany, South Korea and France.

After two years with the junior national team program, Eitmontas began her career with the women’s national senior team in 2013, the same year she began her pro career.

Eitmontas retired to start a family and had plans to resume her playing career, but those plans changed when she gave birth to twins, who are now three years of age.

“It was for the best. I was able to complete some other dreams that I had like finishing my education degree and coming back to the DR and teaching English. That was always another dream I had,” she said.

Believing it is important to give back to the sport she loves, Eitmontas is coaching the Clippers JV girls team this year.

“There’s so much that Dauphin provided me with and I think that the only way I can ever thank all of the people or honour the opportunities that the city provided me with is through giving back and trying to coach the next generation in hopes that they’ll be able to receive similar accolades and achievements,” she said.

One of the highlights of her time with the national team is when Eitmontas had the opportunity to play in front of her hometown fans in an exhibition match against Peru in 2013.

“Honestly, it was completely indescribable. It was two worlds colliding, really. To have grown up and seeing the banners on the walls that I had won in basketball and volleyball and then to look down and see the Canadian jersey and looking around and seeing my national team teammates, it really was completely indescribable,” she said.

“And I am so grateful that we were able to make that happen, because it’s one of my fondest memories looking back.”

Eitmontas is looking forward to the induction ceremony and is especially excited because her brother J.J., who plays for the University of Brandon Bobcats men’s team, has a game after the ceremony, which begins at 1 p.m.

“And so we’ll be able to attend that after, so that will be great” she said.

Eitmontas sees the induction as recognition of what she was able to accomplish.

“And maybe, one day I’ll be able to get in there again as a coach. I don’t want to say I’m completely done with the sport. I have a passion for it still,” she said.

“But it’s just really nice to be recognized for what I was able to do.”

At this point, Eitmontas has no plans to coach at the national level, but would like to eventually find her way to the U Sports level.

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Doug Zywina
REPORTER
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