Loudest player on the team

Paulou Ittungna looks to play hoarse in Whitehorse

Paulou Ittungna, originally from Taloyoak, Nunavut, but now living in Inuvik, listens to direction from coach Dean Webb during the junior male volleyball team's opening game against Nunavut. Team NWT won the game in two straight sets.

It only took one game for Paulou Ittungna to begin feeling the soreness that is a telltale sign he is losing his voice. But if the 18-year-old volleyball player isn't left speechless after this week in Whitehorse he might not have been doing his job at the Arctic Winter Games.

Ittungna plays libero for Team NWT, a position usually reserved for the most skilled defensive player on a volleyball team. Liberos wear contrasting jerseys on the court and are not allowed to hit or block the ball above the net, nor can they serve.

But their role on the court is essential in the team dynamic.

“I'm supposed to be the loudest on the court and don't let the ball touch the floor,” Ittungna said following the team's victory over Nunavut on Monday.

Ittungna was off to a good start in the opening game, passing the ball well and fulfilling his role as top communicator on the court.

“I'm losing my voice so that's a good thing,” he said.

Ittungna is one of two Inuvik players on the junior male volleyball team, along with James Day, on a squad that is the most representative of the NWT at the games.

Coach Dean Webb assembled his team with players from five communities – Fort Smith, Hay River, Yellowknife, Paulatuk and Inuvik.

While having a team with so highly varied representation is good for the development of volleyball in the NWT, Webb said, it is challenging.

On the bright side he said his players get along well, but from a team dynamics point of view, system development was “impossible.”

From Ittungna's perspective, however, the team make-up has been part of the joy of attending the games.

“It was a really good experience,” he said of having the opportunity to train with his teammates. “You get to meet new people and play different roles and see different styles of play, you learn a lot of new things."

This is Ittungna's first games playing for either Team NWT or Nunavut – he is originally from Taloyoak – and he says the experience has been amazing.

Unlike many athletes who try multiple times to make an Arctic Winter Games team or spend their lives around the sport they compete in, Ittungna said he wasn't really into sports until recently. It was only this year that he decided to tryout for a spot on an games team.

“When I moved to Inuvik I really got into sports and started playing a lot of different sports,” he said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Team NWT held a record of 3-1 which meets at least some of Ittungna's goals for the week.

He said he wants to win as many games as possible, “have as much fun as possible and be happy.”

Coach Webb has similar goals plus one  win a medal.