JCC grads and first cousins, Bisaillon and Burmeister helped lead Weber State to successOGDEN, Utah — For most of their lives, Leah Burmeister and Brittney Bisaillon have been nearly inseparable. The cousins grew up in Lakefield and lived just a few miles apart. They visited and played with each other constantly as young kids, and they immediately developed a sister-like bond.
By: Matt Huss, Worthington Daily Globe
OGDEN, Utah — For most of their lives, Leah Burmeister and Brittney Bisaillon have been nearly inseparable.
The cousins grew up in Lakefield and lived just a few miles apart. They visited and played with each other constantly as young kids, and they immediately developed a sister-like bond.
“At birthday parties, she’d be sitting on the floor opening my presents while I watched,” laughed Burmeister, who is a little more than a year older. “We’ve grown up together, basically.”
As all-state volleyball players for Jackson County Central, they dominated together.
In 2003, Burmeister’s senior season at JCC, the duo led the Huskies to the Class AA championship. After Burmeister graduated, they were separated for a prolonged period for the first time in their lives.
Burmeister moved to Ogden, Utah, enrolled at Division I Weber State and was red-shirted on WSU’s volleyball team. Bisaillon stayed at JCC for her senior year.
The separation was temporary.
“I came out here with Lonna (Burmeister, Leah’s mom), and we dropped Leah off at college, so I got to go with her and experience where she’d be living in the dorms and the team and all that stuff,” Bisaillon said. “I just fell in love right away with Ogden and the city and everything. I was like, ‘If they ask me to come here, I’m going to come.’”
WSU coach Al Givens, who discovered Burmeister and Bisaillon while helping out at a volleyball camp in Minneapolis, eventually offered Bisaillon a scholarship. The 5-foot-11 middle blocker accepted, and she was reunited with her cousin.
“It was crazy; we got to play four more years together, and it was really amazing,” Bisaillon said. “It was really fun to share with her. We spent our entire lives together, and then we get to share this whole experience. It was really fun to be with her here and share all the experiences. She was so much fun to play with all through high school and through college.”
The dynamic duo picked up right where they left off at JCC.
In her freshman season, Burmeister was one of three Wildcats to play in every game. She led the team in double-doubles (11), finished second in kills (341) and digs (307), and she had a career-high 24 digs in the first round of the Big Sky Conference tournament. In her first season, Bisaillon was named a Big Sky Conference honorable mention. She was second in the conference with 158 blocks — the sixth-most in WSU history — and ranked in the top 25 nationally. Her 144 block assists were the second-most in program history, and her .310 hitting percentage was good for sixth in the Big Sky Conference and fifth in single-season WSU history.
After growing up, winning a state high school title and attending college together, Burmeister and Bisaillon went into the WSU record books together.
They served as co-captains as seniors and led the Wildcats to a 21-win season — the best in 20 years. Together, they combined to set 11 records at WSU.
Burmeister, who was named a Big Sky Conference honorable mention in her senior season, leaves WSU ranked in the top 10 in six statistical categories. She is second in career digs (1,246), eighth in career kills (1,191), third in career attacks (3,772) and fifth in career service aces (121). She’s also one of seven players in WSU history to reach 1,000 career kills and digs.
Bisaillon, who became just the seventh Wildcat to be a first-team all-Big Sky Conference selection, led the league in both hitting percentage and blocks, finishing her career as both the Wildcats’ and the Big Sky Conference’s all-time career leader in blocks (657) and block assists (580). She ranks second in WSU history in career hitting percentage (.305), seventh in career solo blocks (77), ninth in career kills (1,125), and 10th in both career ace serves (101) and career attacks (2,710).
Fittingly, Burmeister and Bisaillon are tied for the third-most sets played (474) and seventh-most matches played (124) in program history.
“We definitely left our mark, and we ended with the best record out of the five years I’ve been here,” Burmeister said. “It was nice to end on top.”
It’s not over for Bisaillon.
The 23-year-old hired an agent, who sent out game tapes featuring Bisaillon to numerous club teams around the world. A team in Switzerland expressed interest, and Bisaillon inked a four-month contract with Volley BTV Luzern, a club team in Lucerne, Switzerland.
“I’m not ready to give up volleyball yet,” Bisaillon said. “If I didn’t go and do this, I know I’d be playing in some intramural league here at school or something like that. I feel like I still have to play; I don’t want it to be over yet.
“I just love volleyball with such a passion, and I get to go play it for some money in a different country that I probably never would have gone to otherwise.”
The most common language in Switzerland is German, which Bisaillon studied in high school.
“Coming from Lakefield, Minnesota, it can’t get any different,” Burmeister said, laughing. “We did take a couple of years of German in high school, so it could help her.
“She’s good enough to play over there. I know she’s not ready to give it up yet, so she wants to keep playing and this is giving her a chance to play.”
Bisaillon’s agent noticed the play of Burmeister while watching film and asked if the 5-foot-11 outside hitter would be interested in playing overseas, but Burmeister declined. She’s finishing her student-teaching program and plans to get married this summer and eventually take a job as an elementary school teacher.
In the meantime, the two cousins, who grew up so close to each other, will be separated by an ocean, an eight-hour difference on the clock and nearly 5,000 miles.
“I told her she better get a webcam, because I got one for Christmas,” Bisaillon said, laughing. “And I’m telling all of my friends they need to get one so I can see them and talk to them every other day, at least.”