When it came time to choose the roster for the Team Manitoba select volleyball squad, head coach Marshall Lawrence tabbed the Virden terrific twosome of Marlee Gonty and Danika Scharff.
“It was obvious to me that the bond between the two of them was something that I wanted to have on my team,” Lawrence said. “It appeared to me that they were good friends but exceptional teammates.”
The duo competed for Team Manitoba at the Canada Cup in Halifax in July. In addition, the talented Virden Collegiate Institute student-athletes and Club West players were chosen to be alternates for Team Manitoba for the Western Canada Summer Games, which were held in August. Gonty, an outside hitter, and Scharff, a setter, were pleased to go through the Team Manitoba experience together.
“It was nice having a familiar face on the team. I couldn’t have imagined it any other way honestly,” Gonty said. “Dani and I have a bond both on and off the court and we work really well together. I can always trust she will get the ball where it should be.”
Both athletes enjoyed being part of the provincial teams. Gonty said she liked practicing frequently, getting different perspectives from other coaches, and working with players from around Manitoba.
“The thing I loved about being on Team Manitoba was the pride of representing my province while playing the sport I love,” Scharff said. “It’s really a surreal feeling. It just brings a whole new excitement to the game.”
At the Canada Cup, Team Manitoba finished 10th out of 16 teams, Scharff said. She said, “it was a great group of girls and every single game we held our own.” Scharff noted the team competed against top players from each province that she had previously played against at events such as nationals.
“I enjoyed the entire experience - it was exciting to play teams from all over Canada,” Gonty said.
The duo also helped Team Manitoba prepare for the multi-sport Western Canada Summer Games, which were in Swift Current. They did not travel to the event but were certainly a part of the team.
“Their role was really important and very well accomplished,” said Gui Ossig, the team’s co-head coach with Jessica Friesen. “Thank you, girls! This gold medal is yours too!”
Lawrence was pleased to have the daughter of Chad and Rita Scharff as a player and as a person on Team Manitoba.
“What I enjoy the most about working with Danika is that she’s just a good all-around great kid and athlete, which makes coaching so much easier,” he said. “I would have her play on any of my teams again.”
As a setter, Scharff must read the defence and run the offence.
“She’s an aggressive player at the net, which is one of her main strengths,” Lawrence said. “She is still evolving as a player and a leader on the court and off. As a player, she was a great listener and adapted well to my coaching style.”
Being part of the provincial team is a big commitment. Scharff said her parents’ support of her playing volleyball is much more than she could ask for.
“All of the sacrifices they’ve made to give me the opportunities I’ve gotten to play the sport I love is amazing,” she said. “From waking up super early every morning while I was in Halifax to watch the live stream of my games because of the two-hour time difference to coming to watch as many practices and games they can, I really don’t know how I could ask for more.”
Team Manitoba deployed the daughter of Adam and Stacie Gonty at power or left side. Lawrence said, “She was a very strong outside hitter. She did everything I asked her to do as a player.”
“She was also a pleasure to coach,” the head coach said. “She was a hard-working individual who was a great teammate to all the girls on the team.”
Gonty emphasized that her parents are her biggest support system.
“They were on board since the first practice of 13U,” she said. “They are always pushing me to be better and always believe in me. They are at every game to support.”