Make no mistake about it, Riley Sommerville does not like to lose, nor does she expect to.
Sure, Sommerville may say all the right things about how she is excited for the opportunity to represent Canada and use this is a learning experience since she is younger than her competition.
But mention winning and losing, and the 12-year-old’s face breaks into a big smile when that topic is broached.
“If you go on that court thinking you are going to lose, you probably are,” she explained.
Sommerville, a Grade 8 student at Yorkson Creek Middle School, is off to Minneapolis this week where she will represent Canada at the world junior racquetball championships, which run Nov. 5 to 11.
Sommerville earned her spot on Team Canada after finishing second in the U14 division at the Canadian junior national championships back in April in Ontario.
She also won the U12 title, but Team Canada was only sending a squad to the junior world championships for the U14, U16 and U18 divisions.
And Sommerville nearly never made it to her top-two finish — she lost to Quebec’s Juliette Parent, who will now be her partner for doubles at the upcoming championships — after losing the first set in the semifinal match and then being two points away from elimination before rallying for victory.
That come-from-behind victory is a snapshot of Sommerville’s overall demeanour on the court, according to her coach.
“Her level of competitiveness — she doesn’t get down on herself and really fights hard,” said Eric Urteaga, when asked what stands out about Sommerville.
“She is just really enthusiastic, (has a) great attitude and is a really good competitor and she maintains that positive attitude throughout the match.”
When Urteaga began coaching Sommerville a few years back at the Newlands Golf and Country Club, her athleticism was already evident as was her hand-eye co-ordination, a skill essential to success in racquetball.
“And her fundamentals, swing, game play and strategy, and how to compete, have all really evolved over the last year and a half,” he added.
“This will be a great building experience for the future (and) I think she the talent to go really far.
“It is just a matter of getting that experience and dedicating herself to continue working hard at it.”
While some young teens may shy away from pressure, Sommerville embraces it.
“I play better when I am under pressure (and) I like it when people watch me play,” she said.
“Right now I am going for the experience, but I really want to win. I want to finish as high as I can,” she said.
She gets her competitive nature from her grandfather, Larry Oakley, who also introduced her to the sport.
The pair will play occasionally but Sommerville says her grandfather doesn’t go easy on her.