Dec. 21, 2011
If the University of Montana's mission is to open the doors of the world to its graduates, count former Griz volleyball star Jaimie Thibeault as one who has stepped across the threshold to the other side and taken advantage of her global opportunities.
Thibeault, who graduated this month with a degree in elementary education, signed a contract with Lavoro Doc Pontecagnano recently and will begin playing professionally in Italy the first week of January.
"I'm excited, because Italy was my No. 1 choice," says Thibeault, who spent the fall semester student teaching at Cold Springs Elementary in Missoula. "It's probably the best league in Europe."
Thibeault, from Red Deer, Alberta, concluded her Montana playing career in 2010 as a three-time first team All-Big Sky Conference selection. She holds the program record for career blocks and ranks second in career hitting percentage.
She made the Canadian national B team in 2010 and last May was one of 24 players selected for her country's Senior Team.
As one of the Senior Team's most junior members, Thibeault won't be a factor when Canada competes in May at the FIVB Olympic Qualifier in Mexico. There the team will meet Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Mexico, with one remaining spot available for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Instead she is part of the foundation for the team's next cycle of players who will represent Canada at international competitions through the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Over the next four years a full-time teaching career will be put on hold while Thibeault attends to her volleyball dreams and goes through the annual cycle of training with her Canadian teammates each summer at the national training center in Winnipeg, followed by continued professional playing opportunities in Europe. Those seasons typically run from August through April.
Thibeault was contacted by an agent for European volleyball a year ago, soon after her playing career was complete, but she turned the opportunity down in order to finish her degree.
The same agent kept Thibeault's contact information close by and reconnected with the middle blocker once again this fall in a way that shows the ongoing evolution of personal communication. "He Facebooked me," Thibeault says of the agent whose job it is to track NCAA volleyball for European clubs.
Soon Thibeault will be immersed in a new culture. She'll be living just south of Naples -- "five minutes from the beach on the Amalfi Coast," she makes sure to highlight -- and be the only American on her club team, which plays matches typically once a week.
"All of (my teammates) speak slight English, but not very much, so it will be interesting," she says.
- Online Stores
Griz face No. 2 North Dakota Thursday in...
The Montana volleyball team, holding the No. 7 seed, will face No. 2 North Dakota Thursday at 10:...
Griz fall to Bobcats, drop to No. 7 seed
The Montana volleyball team lost to Montana State in straight sets Saturday night at the West...
Griz hang with Big Sky-leading Bengals but fall...
The Montana volleyball team pushed Big Sky Conference champion Idaho State to five sets Thursday ...
Griz looking to lock down tournament spot this ...
The Montana volleyball team will try to clinch a spot to next week's Big Sky Conference...
North Dakota tops Montana in straight sets
North Dakota hit .302 and improved to 6-0 against Montana since joining the Big Sky Conference...
Griz drop 3-0 decision to Bears in Greeley
Montana got off to a slow start and never recovered Thursday night against Northern Colorado in...
Griz on road pursuing North Division leaders
The Montana volleyball team will play matches this week at Northern Colorado and North Dakota....
Coba leads Idaho past Montana in straight sets
Idaho snapped Montana's three-match winning streak with a 25-10, 25-21, 25-16 victory over the...