By David Song, March 17 2021—
When former Dinos volleyball player Adriel Goodman was growing up in Nakusp, British Columbia, her father made sure that sports were a part of her life. Jerome Goodman loved volleyball, and Adriel, the oldest of three girls, began passing a ball around virtually as soon as she was able to do so. It’s one of her earliest distinct father-daughter memories.
Back then, if you told Goodman that her volleyball garb would one day hang from the rafters with the jersey of Canadian National Team veteran Dallas Soonias, she might have laughed you out of the room.
Nowadays, the 22-year old is about 12 months removed from a five-year varsity career, the last three of which were spent in Calgary. She played very sparingly on the 2017-18 Canada West Championship squad, but emerged as the Dinos’ starting right-side hitter in her fifth year. Once COVID-19 wiped out the 2020 U Sports Championship —ending Goodman’s career and those of her fellow seniors — she ended up an assistant brewmaster at a pub in downtown Calgary named Trolley 5.
It is there on 17th Avenue that the B.C. native’s jersey awaits enshrinement alongside the uniforms of Soonias, a Pan American Games bronze medallist, and Leah Shevkenek, a fellow Dinos alum who now plays professionally in Austria.
Unlike Shevkenek and another former teammate, Beth Vinnell (who signed with a club in Finland last spring), Goodman chose not to go pro. But it still means a lot to see her old battle gear on display.
“It’s kind of strange knowing that people I’ve never met are now gonna know who I am and what I’ve done,” she remarked. “It’s like, ‘whoa, I kind of am somebody.’”
But in order to truly appreciate the story behind Goodman’s number 18 jersey, one has to go all the way back to Nakusp, a village of roughly 1600 people in southeastern British Columbia.
Volleyball was Goodman’s first athletic love, but not her only one. After moving to B.C. from Calgary in 2008, she began playing drop-in basketball at a nearby school called Burton. The coach there was an eccentric gentleman in his mid-60s who had a glass eye and seemed to believe that jeans constituted typical hoops attire. He was known as “Phil the Legend” by his players, and Goodman’s passion for basketball soon rivaled her love of volleyball.
Yet, Goodman made no effort to attract scouts or coaches in any of her three sports (she was also a soccer goalie). She assumed that they would have to find her, and serendipitously, one did. Former College of the Rockies coach Andrew Zurrin officiated one of her grade 11 volleyball games and reached out to her dad afterwards.
In 2015, Goodman signed on with the College of the Rockies Avalanche. Her first game action there was inauspicious, to say the least.
“The first semester, they put me in to pass,” she recalled. “I shanked two balls straight off my arm and to the side. They pulled me out, they never put me in again.”
But the Avalanche’s prospects changed rapidly when their starting left-side hitter tore her MCL and meniscus in the first game back from the holidays. With no alternatives remaining (the backup left-side had already become homesick and left), Goodman was pressed into action.
“It was like a trial by fire,” she said. “I was big enough and strong enough to hit in that league. It was a matter of shoring up all of my other weak links. I had to learn how to pass, I had to learn how to block.”
And learn she did. Goodman and her Avalanche teammates qualified for the 2016 PACWEST Provincials as the sixth-seeded team in the conference (there were only seven teams in total). Then, they upset the rival Vancouver Island University Mariners to win the tournament.
“That’s still probably the coolest sports moment of my whole career,” Goodman admitted. “We were the ultimate Cinderella story. My dad came out to watch and I was like, 17 years old. It was the first time I won anything.”
Despite retaining most of their championship team, College of the Rockies wound up fourth at Provincials in 2017 as the Mariners got revenge in the semifinals. Win or lose, Goodman had expected that season to be the end of her college career, but the sport was not done with her just yet.
Brian Millis, then the Avalanche team manager, also happened to be a college scout for former Dinos head coach Natalie Gurnsey. He noticed Goodman’s athletic potential and passed the word along. Around that time, one of her friends on the Avalanche men’s team contacted Brandon University’s volleyball coach on her behalf as well.
Goodman discovered two potential paths forward when she expected none.
“That’s the first time I was like: oh, maybe I could continue to play volleyball,” she said. “Maybe I can go to school for this.”
Speaking of school, Goodman had not taken well to the math involved in her engineering degree and was looking for a change of pace on that front. After connecting with Gurnsey, she chose Calgary over Brandon and switched to a chemistry major the same year she traded Avalanche teal for Dinos red.
Goodman wanted more than anything to be the girl from a small town who made it big at the U Sports level, and on paper, she had a chance. After all, she became a Second-Team PACWEST All-Star in her sophomore year. Folks knew her as “Slaydriel” because she’d been, well, slaying it as one of the Avalanche’s top offensive threats. In fact, BC Local News journalist Brad McLeod wrote back in 2017 that Goodman looked “as if she was born on a volleyball court”.
But Goodman herself was painfully aware of how far she still had to go.
In September of 2019, Natalie Gurnsey addressed the Dinos during their team inauguration meeting ahead of the fall season. During that speech, she used Goodman to make a point.
“You take Adriel for example. Great blocker, okay hitter, terrible defender. But that’s what we work with. Those are her strengths, and so that’s what we expect of her.”
Goodman laughed remembering her old coach’s words. “I hadn’t even met most of those first years yet, now this is what they think of me all of a sudden?”
That moment, however, was not one of embarrassment or shame. It was a sign of how much she had grown.
Make no mistake, Slaydriel had brought to Calgary all the raw potential that had initially caught Gurnsey’s eye. She had a long frame, a team-best 10’3” spike touch and plenty of velocity on her kills. Physically, she was capable of blocking hitters like Kiera van Ryk, a former Canada West All-Star with the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds.
But once again, Goodman needed to shore up her other weak links. Passing had never been her strong suit, and the presence of Mikasa volleyballs in U Sports competition added a further challenge. Mikasa balls are significantly less bouncy than the Molten volleyballs used in PACWEST play, which meant that Goodman needed to overhaul her entire technique.
The Nakuspian spent a year passing to herself against the wall — the most basic drill in the sport. She dressed for only seven of 38 Dinos games in 2017-18 and played a total of two rotations. Her stat line? One kill. It’s safe to say that no journalist covering the Dinos that season would have described Goodman as someone born on the court.
Yet, the PACWEST alum never experienced contempt or loss of faith from anyone around her. What she did find was a mentor in Al Taylor, a Volleyball Canada Hall of Famer who until 2020 had coached alongside Gurnsey.
“Al Taylor is a fantastic coach,” Goodman said. “His understanding of the game is very well-rounded, and I think what he helped me come to terms with the most was that [the Dinos] didn’t bring me here because they needed me to be an all-round superstar.”
Taylor helped Goodman to eliminate distractions and maximize her strengths. He developed her blocking from the ground up, pounding a ball into her arms at every practice while she stood on a bench and focused on the fundamentals. Goodman credits Taylor for getting to know her as a person while still maintaining a professional coach-athlete dynamic.
Now under sound mentorship, the B.C. native blossomed when she switched positions from left-side to right-side. Instead of worrying about her old nemesis, passing, her new role allowed her to concentrate on what came naturally: blocking and hitting. As her physical skills developed, so too did her mental game. Volleyball had become fun again.
Goodman saw a lot more action during the 2018-19 campaign. She had earned the double-sub role, which meant that she and setter Lexi Peart (also a backup at the time) would enter the game in certain situations to spell the starters for three rotations at a time. In other words, Goodman was now providing tangible on-court contributions to a Dinos team that went 30-9 and fell one game short of back-to-back Canada West Championships.
She also became known as “the Terminator” due to her physical prowess and aggressive mindset. Taylor would always say that with Goodman on the attack, the Dinos would either get a kill or lose the point. Either way, she would terminate the sequence.
The nickname encapsulated both Goodman’s strengths and weaknesses, but there was no denying she’d come a long way. Her relationship with Gurnsey developed as she became more experienced, and she cherished the bonds she shared with her fellow second-teamers.
Even so, Goodman was prepared to finish her career without ever starting in a Dinos jersey. They simply had too much All-Star talent at outside hitter, namely Kate Pexman and Hannah Tanasichuk. But much like what had happened to the Avalanche three years prior, injuries transformed Calgary’s season outlook dramatically.
Pexman’s knee gave out during the 2018-19 regular season finale. Weeks later, Tanasichuk tore her ACL playing the Canada West Championship match. The Dinos subsequently lost both their games at Nationals and found themselves facing life without two of their most important members.
Once more, an injury — Pexman’s in this case — opened the door for Goodman to start. With six incoming first years needing to be brought up to speed, she was virtually a lock for the top right-side position. And she had decidedly mixed feelings about it.
“I felt like I earned the crap out of the second right-side spot,” Goodman explained. “I worked my butt off for that spot and then I was just, like, handed the starting spot. And I confessed to [Gurnsey] and said: ‘I feel like I’m playing because I’m your only choice’.”
Gurnsey managed to cure the Nakuspian of her imposter syndrome, assuring her that the Dinos had other choices and that Goodman was their best one. With the misunderstanding cleared up, and with Taylor’s advice to focus on her strengths in mind, the PACWEST product had a senior year to remember.
In 2019-20, Goodman truly made herself known to Dinos fans as a flamboyant flamethrower who hit hard and celebrated even harder. She combined with rookie sensation Trinity Solecki to form a one-two punch on the outside and helped her teammates block the biggest hitters in the conference. Goodman was no all-round star, but she brought energy to the bench and kept opposing defenders on their toes.
Last year, the Dinos rallied from a 4-13 fall semester to finish the season 11-18. We will never know what they might have been capable of with home court advantage at the 2020 U Sports Championship. But we do know that Goodman was a key part of the success they did have, notching 146 of her 180 Canada West kills and 58 of 67 blocks as a senior.
Goodman once thought that she would never return to Calgary, but here she is having achieved many things that she wouldn’t have dreamed of as a teen. College volleyball career? Check. Canada West title? Check. Become a starter on a U Sports team? Check.
Learn how to brew beer? Check.
For the record: Goodman doesn’t like beer. But she stopped by 17th Avenue with an old friend last summer to grab a meal, in the process chatting with Trolley 5 owner Ernie Tsu (who also owns the club team Goodman played for between Dinos seasons). Upon learning that Goodman is a chemistry major, Tsu invited her to consider the assistant brewmaster position. Days later, he hired her.
According to Trolley 5 events manager Lotus Sikina, Goodman has been an exemplary teammate at her new workplace. The Dinos alum learned how to brew alone just months after being hired, and she fills a variety of other ad-hoc roles from maintaining equipment to running deliveries.
“She is super positive all the time,” Sikina said about Goodman. “I think she gets along with everyone, which is a really good asset especially when all of us are obviously struggling a bit with mental health during a pandemic.”
The Nakuspian hasn’t abandoned her dream of traveling the world with her boyfriend (whom she happened to meet at one of Phil the Legend’s basketball games all those years ago). And in the future, she hopes to work in the environmental sector. But for now, Goodman is content where she is, and once Trolley 5’s Local Wall of Fame is complete, guests can walk in and see that she is more than just a brewmaster.
“Everyone wants to be recognized for something that they feel they do well,” Goodman said. “Maybe I can’t invent a beer, but I can smack a volleyball pretty good. It’s on the wall. You can see it.”