Alrighty then – World Championships recap time! It’s a little delayed but I hope you pardon all my excuses which include running around Italy with my parents, getting settled into my new club in Urbino, and then coming back to Canada to get my visa (but more on that later). World Championships was again (and of course) a wonderful experience. I felt truly blessed to be a part of that again, as my first experience was in 2010 as a “baby” of the team. I still felt like my eyes were wide open as it never gets old competing with the best players and teams in the world. Lupo told us in one of our meetings that there were only four Team Canada athletes everrrrrrr that had been to two World Championships (and they happened to be on this team)! Janie, Marisa, Brittney and me; I’m not sure if that makes us super old or what, but what a cool thing!
After our solid week of training in Slovenia we were back on the bus heading to Trieste. The hotel was super awesome and the food was great – always nice to not have to worry about this aspect while in the middle of competition, and this hotel met everyone’s picky needs and wants. The best part was the espresso machine that was in the dining room for 24/7 use (who knows if that was actually the rule but us coffee-addicts sure took advantage of it). In my Starbucks to-go mug that I brought from home, it effectively fit 3 “Italian” sized cappuccinos, so I was well stocked up on the caffeine front. They even had a few flavoured syrups just to make us feel at home (and super wired) – how splendid. We had a few days of training before we jumped into competition but it was really awesome that we had spent the last week in Slovenia so we were already on the correct time zone. Before each game, two girls would do a presentation on the country we would be playing - just to do something fun and keep the edge off. Of course, we were all prepping our presentations in Slovenia just to get adequate time to make them super perfect (mmm no... bunch of procrastinators). The staff that we had on this trip were Lupo & Scout, Mandy (our physio / body-healer), Julien (the person to direct all my 7000 questions to), and Daryl (as our weight-trainer / personal-hype man); great group of people, all eager to get this show on the road. Here’s a little recap of each game:
Coming into the Championships we had a bit of a lineup change. I was moved to starting right side, something I haven’t done since early UBC years. I spent the few weeks before World Championships working my butt off, trying to get comfortable playing position 1 defense and learn how to effectively hit C balls… good times. In our powerhouse pool we had Brasil, Turkey, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Cameroon. Going into the tournament the coaches were saying that this was by far the hardest pool; good thing we like a challenge.
Canada vs. Cameroon: we came out with a bang and it was AWESOME! Ended up winning 3-1 as we couldn’t quite close it out in 3 but I think we had a really solid game overall. Usually the first game of any competition can be a little bit shaky but I thought we really came out and played our game and set the pace/tone early. Fantastic way to start the tournament; we broke the “losing streak” for WNT just with that single win. Lupo's thoughts after the game were: "We felt a lot of pressure going into the first game. We are playing in a very tough pool where Cameroon is probably the easiest opponent so it was very important for us to win this first match. I think a loss would have ended our dream of reaching the second round right on the first day."
Canada vs. Turkey: For me personally, I thought this was the most disappointing game out of them all. Every single one of these players played in the Turkish league last year and so I had spent the entire year playing against them. Going in to the game I was super pumped because I knew that this was a team that we could upset IF we came out hard. They are a very technical team and are usually spending the majority of the year training together as most of them play on the top Turkish team, Vakifbank, but they had some holes and I was pretty certain we could exploit those and go for it. Unfortunately, it was one of those games where we couldn’t get our rhythm and they had all the momentum. I was ready to give them a good game but unfortunately they cruised to a 3-0 win.
Canada vs. Brasil: This game I was not dressing due to an ongoing injury, which was upsetting because how many times do you get to play the #1 ranked team in the world? (Spoiler alert: basically never). I understood the decision and had the conversation with my coach; we needed to win the next two games and so I had to rest the shoulder in order to come out harder in the next games. Selfishly I would have killed to play... of course. My competitive nature urgently wanted to be on the court. We lost 3-0 that game but I thought the girls played well considering. We were getting some kills straight to the floor and putting up some beastly blocks, which was really awesome to see; a little bit of extra celebration against this team. Brasil put out their starting line up and only brought in a few subs at the very end of the sets – a testament to the girls.
Canada vs. Serbia: Went into this game with a little more pressure on us than originally planned. Bulgaria (who we were looking to beat in order to get to the second round) upset Turkey the day before. SO if we beat Cameroon & Bulgaria like we were planning, it still might not have be enough because of sets for and against. We knew that we had to have a really good game against Serbia. Winning, or taking them to 5 and keeping the sets close would really help us out. We saw this team play when we were in Slovenia so we had seen a few of their players already. They were flippppinnnnn tall and could smack down some balls. There was a young right side that played on Vakifbank last year so I had played her all year as well. Tabi was sick for this game so we did a big lineup shift and I was back on the leftside with Shanice… a more comfortable position for me despite not playing it for the last 3 + weeks. Even though we had not practiced this lineup for a while, we took Serbia to 4. I’m pretty convinced that if we had pushed them to 5 that the outcome would have been different. After not showing up in the first set we came out in the second leading 10-3, as well as rolling in the 3rd set to get some good momentum. A little dip in the 4th set let them finish easily and we couldn’t get it back, losing 1-3. In the press conference Lupo's statement was: "After the first set, we started to show an improved block-defence game. In the second and third set, my team played on a good level." I'm adding Serbia to the list of teams we’re going to take down in the future.
Canada vs. Bulgaria: Heading into World Championships we had the goal of beating Cameroon and Bulgaria in order to qualify for the second round. Unfortunately due to Bulgaria’s upset vs. Turkey and us not going to 5 with Serbia, we went into this game knowing that we didn’t have a chance to qualify. Bulgaria was super prepped for us and played a perfect game – they were lights out. Again, we couldn’t establish our momentum with this team and even though we battled point for point for most of the sets, we couldn’t take it away in the end. Tabi was still sick and Jenn hurt her knee half way through the Serbia match the day before. Switching up the lineup once more; Shanice and I on the leftside with Britty in rightside (who had hyperextended/sprained her elbow in Serbia’s game and was trying to play through some extremely uncomfortable pain), Becky & Lucy, Tesca / Janie, and Meggy-Meg setting.
It’s a little hard to re-cap World Championships as a whole, especially when you don’t live up to individual expectations and team goals. It was really tough for me that we didn’t qualify for the next round – I had it in my head that I was playing at least 2 weeks of volleyball and had planned out numerous things with that expectation in mind. I fully believed leading up to World Championships and during the competiton that we would make it there. Just a tough pill to swallow when it suddenly becomes outside of your control. The positive spin off of this is I WASN’T ready to be done after the first week (after already two weeks of intense training and competition) and had a lot left in me, especially mentally, to keep going. I’m still very, very excited and eager to see where this group goes; we’ve set some big goals for ourselves over the next two years and we can most definitely achieve them. Everyone is there to get better and make the most out of every single training session and work our butts off. This summer is exactly what we needed with Grand Prix and World Championships especially, we got the opportunity to play against top level competition and see some European teams we have not played this quadrennial. Last week the international rankings were updated - our team moved up five spots and are currently ranked 16th in the world. These world rankings are based on points that teams gain at major tournements such as World Championships and Grand Prix. Lupo's thoughts were: "The fact that we moved up five places shows how important it is to play at the big tournaments like Grand Prix and WC. We hadn't played in Grand Prix for 11 years, and a World Championship is only every four years. It also shows how important it is to win the games that you have to win at these tournaments; our win over Cameroon was crucial at the WC." It's so awesome for our program and for our team that we moved up that much - we had some really great showings this summer and now are just looking for things to be a little more consistent.
I often look at the men’s National Team program to remind myself that success doesn’t happen over night. They moved out to Gatineau and started to re-vamp their program and team, and that took a lot of years and a lot of hard work. Now, they are a force to be reckoned with on the international stage and they force their opponents to play their best against them, otherwise they’re going to take it. Personally, I know how talented this group of women is (I train with them every day!) and so I automatically assume that success follows that. However, even going back to my UBC days, that program saw a lot of rebuilding before I got there and before the university saw all their success. Good things take time. Our WNT has the heart, dedication, and talent to go really, reeeeally far and have a lot of success along the way… but it doesn’t happen right away. These tournaments are what we need and we need more of them to continue to raise our game. So bear with us, trust us, and support us… we wont let you down in the end.
Special thanks to the parents who came all the way to Italy to cheer us on. Tesca's mama, Lucifer's parents, and my amazing mom & dad... you guys were a constant support the whole way through. We also appreciate the hotel visits and the many, many, maaaany trips to the Gelateria's - thank you Jill for finding the best one in all of Trieste! Al Charuk and George Richey also became the best of friends (as was anticipated). When I first saw Al in the lobby wearing all-white New Balance orthopaedic-looking running shoes... I knew (Dad has the same pair). I'm sure they bonded over weight-lifting techniques, their personal bests in each exercise, and the statistics from each of our games. Also, to Liz & Shanon for coming down and taking a break from their law studies - so great to have you both in the crowd for two games. Thanks so much everyone! So much love for you guys.