Lisa Cheung kept hitting the wall. Against the No. 1 West Side team in the senior girls volleyball city championships Nov. 8, Cheung couldn't power her shots through the wall of six-foot blockers.
So the David Thompson Trojans' outside hitter made a small adjustment. She aimed her next shot inches to the left and drilled the ball down the line for the kill. With the point, she cracked a smile.
David Thompson won the championship in four sets, largely because Cheung, always with an impish smile, found a way to win points. The Trojans compete at the Lower Mainland AAAA tournament this week and a top-four finish will put them through to provincials.
In the first round of city playoffs against Winston Churchill, Cheung did it again. Against a taller blocker, the five-foot-six Trojan was repeatedly denied. So she changed her direct, powerful hit to a top-spinning roller that arched over the defenders' hands. The Trojans won.
"She can be a really tricky player because she hits hard but she can also change it up," said David Thompson head coach Nelson Yu. "She's athletic, smart, quick and reads the game better than anyone I've seen in the city. She is a great all around player, although she is a bit on the short side, a lot of people underestimate her but she makes up for that with all the other skills that she has in her arsenal."
Cheung has been named the David Thompson female athlete of the year every year since Grade 8. Now a Grade 12 student, she is also a soccer goaltender and captain of the school basketball team and last year shared the honour with her twin sister, Lily.
On the court, the two have the advantage of not always having to speak aloud to communicate, said Cheung.
"Me and Lily have, you could say, a twin telepathy. We have chemistry. She will look at me and I will know that she wants to run this or run that," said Cheung, who was born in Vancouver after her parents immigrated from China.
Her ability to win points is just one contribution she makes, said Yu.
"Lisa is the type that won't be afraid to try things, he said. Besides all her skill that she brings to the team, it's her heart and competitiveness that she brings to the table as well. She's very vocal and just her will to win brings her team up to another level. They see her go for every ball and never quits until the game is over. She definitely leads by example and never takes a point off and I think thats why her team respects her so much."
Respect is something she values because the Trojans have been on the short end of that stick. Cheung said the Trojans are habitually underestimated.
At a tournament in the Fraser Valley, Cheung remembers surprising the competition. "We were the only Asian team there and we were the shortest team there. You could hear the other teams laugh at us. We ended up winning first."
Usually on the court, it's Cheung who seems to be having the best time. She laughs easily with her teammates and cracks a smile after almost every point. She says her Grade 7 volleyball coach at Kingsford Smith elementary taught her the power of a good attitude.
"I remember my coach telling me, 'Just smile and take everything in,'" she said, thanking all the volleyball coaches she's had: Errol Joe, Paul An, Grant Dawson, Vernon Chin and Nelson Yu.
"There's no point looking mean — it's about sportsmanship, right," she said. "I learned, anything happens, just smile."
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