Tessa May on fighting injuries . . . and being Meredith Grey

A sitdown with SFU’s star middle blocker

Tessa May was named GNAC All-Conference Honourable Mention in the 2015-2016 season. (Photo courtesy of SFU Athletics)

By: Chris Januardi Lim

Year: Junior

Major: Education Minor: Kinesiology

Hometown: Roberts Creek, BC

Favourite song: “One Man Can Change the World” – Big Sean

As the women’s volleyball team captain this year, Tessa May looks to lead her young team into the National Championship tournament. Averaging 2.29 kills and 1.1 blocks per set this season, she hopes to add to her accolade by making the all-conference team for the third time. Read on to find out about her love for animals and her flailing-arms dance!

The Peak: Why SFU?

Tessa: My sister, who is two years older than me, played on the team as well, [and] she graduated last year. We always talked about playing together in post-secondary. There were division one offers, and I thought about going division one, but I was around the team a lot before and I knew a lot of the girls before coming here. I think what made the decision for me as well was — I was watching one game, and I watched coach Gina, and something clicked in my head. So I emailed her that night, and I signed.

P: What’s your proudest accomplishment on the court?

T: In high school, when I was in grade 12, my U18 team [a team of players age 18 and under] won the Canadian nationals, which was a giant moment for me. It opened a lot of doors and it helped me realize volleyball at a high level [was] the road I [wanted] to take. Also, making the all-conference team [in] my first and second year reassured me that I [could] compete with players in our conference.

P: I know you’re a big animal person, so cats or dogs?

T: I grew up on a farm, so there were lots of animals. My mom had eight dogs, so we had a lot of dogs around. But we [also] had a cat we rescued from a shelter, who we got when I was super young. I still have her now, and cats are so soft, so I guess I’m a cat person. Haha, my mom would kill me if she heard that.

P: What aspirations do you have outside of volleyball?

T: I really like coaching [and] I was lucky enough that my sister got me the opportunity to get a job coaching for a club that I played for in high school. I got to coach the U18’s so my sister and I also got a chance to coach together, which was really cool. She taught me a lot about coaching. So that was pretty sweet . . . I would love to pursue that more.

This is also a reason why I’m in education, so [that I’m] able to teach people how to play volleyball because I’m so passionate about it. I love to inspire and teach people. That would be my dream job, probably. I’m also really interested in physiotherapy as well. I’ve had a lot of injuries, so I’ve seen many physios, chiropractors, and doctors. I would love to work with rehab[ilitating] athletes on the physical side and also the mental side. If I could fuse those two jobs together, it’d be perfect.  

P: What keeps you going and fighting through your injuries?

T: A lot of it is my team, but also my sister. She’s my all-time idol, she taught me pretty much everything I know and helped me a lot with the mental side of it. She’s really easy to talk to, and she’s really good at helping me now since we’ve been through it for so long. With my teammates, they’ve always been supportive and they care so much about how I’m doing. I want to get better so I can help them improve as well. Also, my coach . . . has been the most understanding person ever. I could never even imagine having a different coach because she’s been so amazing to help me try to get better without making my injuries worse. And my parents obviously who pay [for] all of my physio and rehab work! They definitely push me through everyday as well.

P: Getting back to the team, who would you say is the best dancer?

T: We’re all pretty bad at dancing, [but] we pretend that we’re really good. But [Alison] McKay who graduated last year was pretty good. This year, Lauren Fridman is a really good salsa dancer; she whips that out all the time. But the rest of us [are] pretty bad. We just jump around, flail our arms, and hope for the best.

P: Who’s your favourite athlete [on] the team and [on] other SFU teams?

T: [I] love everyone [on] my team equally, [it’s] hard to pick one person. But [Madison] Power has helped me a lot; she’s always been really easy to talk to. Christine Howlett has always been supportive and . . . helped me a lot through the years. But I love everyone on my team!

Off the team, one of my best friends is Michael Provenzano on the men’s basketball team. We got to know each other a lot [more] over the spring. We met one day and we just clicked. He’s one of the best people I’ve met. But everyone in SFU Athletics is great: it’s a great culture.

P: Here comes the most important question: if you could be any TV character, who would you be and why?

T: Meredith Grey. [I] love the doctor stuff, so it’d be pretty cool to be her. But her life is pretty messed up so i’m not sure, haha.

P: What are the goals for yourself and the team this year?

T: For myself, it’s to probably get better every practice and to stay positive and remember why I play volleyball, which gets hard sometimes when I’m in pain.

For the team, it’s a young team this year [with] great potential. We had a tough start, but I’m certain we can make the national tournament and make it past the first round. The possibilities for this team are endless, [and] we can do whatever we put our minds to.

Athlete’s Corner:

I want to thank all the athletes here for making the past three years the best years of my life. There’s a great culture within athletics and our team. If every team is as close as some of us are, it would be cool, and I want it to spread to every single team. I would love for us to support each other’s games. Especially with the volleyball program, before our coach came we weren’t a strong program, so there weren’t [many] people supporting and watching us. So the more people support us, [the more] it’ll help boost our confidence. SFU is definitely a great place and I can’t picture myself anywhere else.