If she had followed her family’s passion, Bisons left side Tori Studler may have grown up to be a hockey player.
Instead, she forged her own path.
“I played hockey pretty competitive growing up,” said Studler.
The Grosse Isle native grew up a multi-sport athlete but eventually time constraints forced her to make a choice. She gave up playing hockey to take volleyball more seriously, and said it was hard since her father is “a big hockey person and he didn’t know anything about volleyball.”
At age 13, Studler played for the Junior Bisons, and this was the point she said she knew volleyball was the right choice.
“I just loved the speed of the game and how quick it was,” said Studler. “I liked the team aspect and the culture of volleyball is very fitting for myself.”
Bisons head coach Ken Bentley first noticed Studler when she was in Grade 10, playing for the Junior Bisons. Seeing the potential the young player had, he asked Studler if she would like to play at the University of Manitoba.
U of M was not the only option for the five-foot-eleven left side, but it was the clear front runner.
“I went on some other recruitment trips and then just found that U of M would be the best fit for me,” Studler said.
“I wanted to be here with my family and see them in the crowd all the time and that’s really important to me.”
The decision to join the Bisons under Bentley helped Studler develop as a player, and it all started with something the Bisons bench boss told her when she arrived at the U of M.
“There’s a quote that I remember Ken telling me on my first practice here,” said Studler.
“He said ‘No elite athlete feels 100 per cent.’ [What] he meant by that is, you need to push yourself and physically push yourself, mentally push yourself, or else you aren’t going to get any better. And I still abide by that still to this day.”
From there Studler has been a constant in the Bisons lineup — until this season.
A conflict between the demands of her coursework and the Bisons pushed Studler to sit the year out. She said that while it was a difficult decision to make, she determined her schooling was most important.
“It wasn’t very flexible with my volleyball schedule, so I decided that I would put school first,” said Studler.
Very quickly, however, Studler got the itch to come back.
“After not even the first week of school, I was still here every Wednesday practicing and I was working out, and Ken and I were in conversation the whole entire first term about how I was going to come back,” she said.
Ultimately, sitting out was too difficult and she made sure she could return to the court.
“I switched a few courses around to make volleyball work in the second term, so I could balance both of them,” said Studler.
“The last weekend of the first term I came back and played against Brandon and that was exactly why I came back. I had the most fun ever playing with the girls and being out there, so it was easy.”
Now, with less than three weeks left in the season, the Bisons are set to play the University of Winnipeg Wesmen in a pivotal series for the herd.
Studler, though, is looking forward to the cross-town matchup for more personal reasons.
“My best friend plays at the U of W, so this year’s going to be weird for me to play against her, but it’ll be good,” she said.
This friend is Wesmen left side Kalena Schulz, but the two try to avoid talking about volleyball when together.
“We try not to talk about it too much because we’re both very competitive,” said Studler.
“We just kind of [think] whatever happens, happens, but we’re very competitive and still give it our all no matter what.”