After talking about my own life and experiences here Italy in my last blog, I decided it was time to write about my lovely teammates. This year, we really are spread from one end of the earth to the other, but that just makes things all the more exciting. I wanted to give everyone a mid-season, halfway-point-update on where the girls are and how their teams are doing thus far. Of course, it seems like all players and their teams are facing some form of adversity. It’s amazing how similar some specific situations are, even though you’re on a completely different team, in a completely different league, and completely different country. The professional-life struggles are always consistent all over the globe and it definitely gives us a lot to talk about and share when we’re all reunited in the summer. Of course, for many of us we are overseas on our respected professional teams with the mindset to get ready and improve for Team Canada. Our current (Team Canada) squad is so dedicated to our program and left World Championships knowing what we needed to get better at as a team, and also individually; what better way to practice than to… well, practice every single day for the next eight months. Whew. Currently I’m on a pretty amazing team in Italy, player-wise. It’s probably the most cohesive group I’ve been with overseas (despite our losing record… but okay, I love them all as people!). Normally everyone’s counting down the days until we’re back working hard together, reunited, in a 3G-Starbucks-filled land and after chatting with the girls over the last couple weeks, I can definitely say that I'm pumped. We’re gearing up for an exciting summer as we head out to Grand Prix again and host Pan Am Games in Toronto. Exciting stuff. I’ll be redundant and say that I cannot wait for Team Canada to start up again as (bear with me) our current group is just so talented and I think we’re on the road to doing some great things... such as casually taking down some of the top teams in the world. With three to four months to go, here is the mid-season update on your Team Canada girls:
Megan | Setter | Switzerland
Meggy-Meg is currently playing with Marisa in Switzerland. She was called onto this team in November due to an injury and ever since then has just been cruising. Not surprisingly, she fit right in with her teammates (who love her) and has been setting dimes since she arrived. She said that they had an interesting first half as they played really well a few games and beat some highly ranked teams, but on the other hand also had a few rough games, losing to some weaker ones. They are heading into the second half of the season ranked fifth and looking to increase their ranking by at least a few positions.
Shanice | Leftside | Germany
This is Shanice’s second year on the German powerhouse team, Dresden. Last year they won the Bundesliga and they seem to be on the same path this year. They’ve only lost two games in total (one champions league game and one in the cup quarter finals) but they’re undefeated in the league through the first half. Three more Champions League games need to be played in order to see where they fall and whether or not they will move onto the next round. [Side note: for those of you who aren't familiar with Champions League, it's essentially a "super league" consisting of all the top teams from a bunch of different countries, depending on last year's results in each respected league. These teams are very busy as each week they are balancing both their country's league games as well as the CL, which often mean they are traveling a looottttttt]. Good luck Shanaaace - grab that second (Bundesliga) championship!
Tesca | Libero | Romania
Last time I talked to Tesca she was flying to Romania for a couple days on a blitz-tryout in Bacau. She was back at home for the holidays with family and friends but now that the New Year has arrived, she is off to join her new team (clearly she stunned them with her skill & charm)! It’s her first professional stint so next time you talk to her, wish her luck and fire off a lot of support!
Jaimie | Middle | Poland
Jayjay is currently playing in Poland on the team Sk Bank Legionova. They had a fairly rough start to the beginning of the season as they had four girls returning from the Polish National Team with some serious injuries. As a result, at the beginning of the first half they had to work with what they had, and throw together whatever healthy bodies they could. A couple of times they weren’t able to pull through in some of their must-win matches. After a few losses, the club and sponsors were looking for a change and so they fired the coach (the captain also left) midway through the first half. Since these changes the team has been more successful, gaining a few points here and there from solid games against the top clubs. Officially, Legionova is ranked 8th in the league going into the second half but the club and players are very confident that they will have more success the next few months. Jam describes her team as very young with a couple 18 and 19 year-olds that have a lot of raw talent. She says "they are starting to shine through and become more of a force" and she’s excited to see how much they are improving. Her club has put this team together as a longer-term process; their goal is to become one of the top teams in the league next year. The Polish League is a very, very strong league and they absolutely love their volleyball (it’s the national sport!!) so you’re treated like a celebrity if you’re playing in the Orlen Liga. So far she’s having a great experience!
Lucy | Middle | Germany
This year Lucifer decided to take down the German league. When she told me she was signing on a team in Germany I immediately felt so sorry for the other poor souls that would be up against her. As predicted, she’s been taking down middles left and right and her collection of MVP hats is getting slightly ridiculous. She is playing for VT Aurubis Hamburg. She’s not the only foreigner player on her team this year and in fact, she is playing with our National Team setter Jenn Lundquist. Last season she was playing in Kamnik, Slovenia (population: 10,000) compared with Hamburg, which happens to be the second largest city in Germany. A slight change. Their team finished last in the league in the previous season and in an attempt to make an improvement, the club hired a whole new roster and coaching staff composed of 2 Canadians, 3 Americans, 1 Finn, and 6 German players. So far this season they are 2-10 and in 11th place out of 12 in the league. They won the first round of the Pokal final against a division two team but lost in the second round to a team that will compete in the finals.
Lisa | Leftside/Opposite | Canada
Okay, so Lisa didn’t go TOO far this season but she’s still a baby! Who knew! Currently she’s finishing up her fifth and final year at the University of British Colombia, on track to graduate in May. This year has been a little bit different for Lise as she’s missed almost the entire season due to illness and injury but is beyond excited to get back at it in a couple of weeks and turn things around for the birds. Watch out everybody else. And wear a mouth guard…! GO BIRDIES(sorry... but it was necessary!!).
Becky | Middle | France
Of course Becky’s update to me was extremely pristine and perfect, equipped with updated league information, team details, and descriptive living arrangements. Not that I should have doubted in the first place but it was definitely a pleasant surprise. She is playing for the Beziers Angels this season in the French League. The league is very tight this year with the top six teams all taking wins from one another (unlike in other years when the powerhouse club, Cannes, ruled all). No game is a guarantee, even to the teams that are ranked below them. There are a lot of good Americans in the league this season but Becky is the only Canadian in France’s first division. Beck is living in the tiny town of Columbiers, which is surrounded by grape vines, and very friendly neighbours (a donkey, horses, sheep, farm dogs and stray cats). Remind me to visit ASAP. I actually just spent the majority of a 6-hour bus ride sending voice messages back and forth with her. One of my favorite stories was that she once got stuck driving behind a two-wheeled cart pulled by the donkey and mentioned that she can sometimes hear him “hee-hawing.” It’s just too much!! Beziers is surrounded by canals and is 10km from both the Mediterranean Sea and the mountains. Bakeries are everywhere which is a good thing because she doesn’t have an oven in her apartment. Her baking skills have definitely expanded this season as she is still somehow finding ways to make her treats. Fun fact: she’s playing M1 right now and is running slides/steps/fasts all day long. And kicking butt of course. Becky’s team is going into the second half of the season ranked fourth and are currently in the quarterfinals of CEV cup, which is just so fantastic. She also LOVES the fact that her team colours are pink and baby blue. Just kidding… but at least I’m super jealous on her behalf.
Marie-Pierre | Leftside | TBD
Unfortunately MP did not travel with us to World Championships which made it a little more difficult to find a contract this season – she wanted to wait for a good opportunity and not just settle for any given team. While we were at World’s she was back in Winnipeg training at the university there and devastatingly sprained her knee, which put her out for October and November. At the beginning of December she felt like she was almost ready to get going and so booked a ticket across the pond to go practice with some teams (even if they weren’t hiring for this season, a few solid contacts for next season is always a good thing). So far she’s played with four teams in three different countries. Still on the hunt for a job but she’s really enjoying this impromptu European tour. And if you know MP, you know that she’s making one million friends in every place she’s stopping (serious… it’s incredible). Joining a team mid-season is hard because the club has already made up their team for specific reasons. Often if you’re joining a team late, it’s due to injuries or the fact that they’re missing a little spark. MP says she has be the piece of what’s missing and adapt to the situation; she has everything she needs in order to play this year and is now just waiting on just a little bit of luck. You got this girl!
Brittney | Opposite | China
Brittney was the first Team Canada member to take the plunge into China. Living with her this summer, I was able to watch how this contract transpired – I was so excited for her to head waaaay across the pond and jump into this unfamiliar territory. She arrived a little late due to visa issues (what else is new?! I'm not even phased anymore...) and jumped into her first regular season game in Chengdu, China, 24 hours later. Every time I talk to her she tells me how much she is enjoying the league. The game is incredibly fast and every single player on the court can play phenomenal scrappy defense. She tells me that "the rallies are usually really long which is hardly a feat for any Chinese player as these girls have been intensely training at different sport institutes since they were kids, so they’re all very physically prepared." A regular practice for Britt consists of an hour of hitting lines and two hours of 6v6, which include A LOT of combinations (hello, cardio workout!). Her team had a tough start to the season, losing a lot of 5-set matches, which put them at risk of missing playoffs. Britt’s also had a tough go personally as she was pretty sick for a period of time and when she finally got enough strength to play in a game, she sprained her ankle (missing four games in ten days is like half of their season!). Lovely how that always seems to happen. The way the Chinese league works is that each team plays two games a week in their pool of six and if you don’t finish top of the pool you don’t get to cross over and play against the other side of the league. Britt’s team did not end up finishing in the top of their pool so are not moving forward into playoffs. They now have a few weeks off from games before one last tournament of the season where they hope to maintain their standings in the league. The crazy thing about the Chinese league is how short it is (length wise… not actually speaking in terms of average height…) and the fact that there are so many games packed into a shorter stretch, so the time just flies by. “I do quite enjoy the abundant game play but spending fourteen days on the road at a time is tough. My apartment in Chengdu has been vacant for most of the season! Now that we are here training until our last tournament I’ve had a chance to enjoy the city!” The shopping and plentiful amount of Starbucks (she can see about three from her balcony – & I would know as she sent me a ha-ha video) is keeping her very happy as well as having a personal translator, Poppy, by her side which has made her training a lot more comfortable and enjoyable. Obviously she’s killing it in a crazy-fast, defensive league… not like anybody doubted. Think you’ll go back to Asia next year, Britters?
Check out this wonderful article on Brittney (here) courtesy of the Vernon Morning Star.
Marisa | Middle | Switzerland
Reese’s describing sentence of her new life was “pretty fine” which just made me laugh. Oh Marisa. I know for a fact that it’s actually indeed quite lovely as she has just moved into an amazing apartment next to the city center which is across the street from a gorgeous lake (this move happened just before the Christmas break). Although living on top of a bar can get quite noisy, it would be pretty spectacular to live in the city center of well, mostly any city. Megan and Reese are playing together this season in a town called Neuchatel, which is pretty awesome. We have two setter-middle combinations happening this year which is of course going to help out our National Team when we all get back together! Reeser says that after struggling a bit at the end of the first half, the team is looking to get back on track and start wracking up points for playoffs. Spoiler alert: they just won their game tonight. She's also been crushing steps/slides/fasts (watch here). Other than that, she says it’s pretty much the standard prolife: eat, sleep, play volleyball, and repeat (…honestly). I got to meet up with Reese and a few other fellow Canadians in Lugano, Switzerland for New Years Eve which was a lovely little reset for everyone before we move into the last few months of our professional seasons!
Janie | Libero | TBD
I don’t envy the libero life, that’s for sure. It always seems so tough to get a contract overseas because many of the clubs are looking for big hitters and will choose to pick up a local libero if they can. Janie has been in Montreal training with the university as well as showing up the fourteen men that are all currently at their Full-Time National Team Training Center in Gatineau. It would definitely be interesting to see first hand the differences between men and women’s volleyball… other than the brute-strength of those man-hits (except that Janie probably dug them all up like a boss, while I would still be recovering from my twelve concussions). Of course it’s so wonderful to be home for the holidays but Janie’s ready to head overseas to start playing. If it doesn’t happen in the next couple weeks she’ll be heading to the sun-destination of Winterpeg at the end of January to start our FTC and be ready for the big summer that we have coming up!
Dana | Leftside | Puerto Rico
D-Smooth-Money is off to Puerto Rico RIGHT MEOW for some tryouts. What a stud. After resting her bionic knees for the fall months she is ready to get back on the court in order to train and be ready for this summer! She spoke with her agent one day and three days later she was on a plane to an actual sunny destination. Right from the get-go she has a tryout with the top team in the league and will go from there. Currently, Puerto Rico is trying to pick up some solid outside hitters for the season so I don’t have any doubt in my mind that she will be staying there for the next several months. Puerto Rico is a shorter season, typically running from January into about April or May. It’s a strong league with ballin-foreigners but they are not shy to make sudden changes if they feel you’re underperforming. Super-star Destiny Hooker was actually released from her Puerto Rican team last year post-baby because they felt like she wasn’t in as good of shape as they expected. Regardless, I know Dana’s up the challenge. Put that girl in any situation, hard or easy, and she’s going to flourish and come out of it a stronger player. Not to mention the tan that she will be inevitably getting… jealous. Perhaps we should all go down there for a visit after our European seasons are done… who’s with me? (Lucifer… I know you’re in!)
Jennifer | Setter | Germany
As mentioned above, Jennifer and Lucifer are playing together in Hamburg this season. Jenn also mentions that they had a bit of a rocky start to the season and up until a couple of games ago, they were ranked last in the German league. They’ve struggled finding their rhythm as well as finding the right combination of players on any given day. Like a lot of professional teams they have faced some adversity in the coaching department. The past couple of games they had, however, earned them six points with their two wins, which pulls them ahead to 9th. She hopes they can keep the streak alive and pull even further into the rankings. This is Jenn’s first year playing pro so she is still getting accustomed to the lack of ease surrounding it all; everything just takes more time and there’s always paperwork, paperwork, and more paperwork. “Everything just seems to be a little more difficult to do, such as setting up online banking, getting internet installed, or even developing pictures!” Welcome to the prolife, Jennycakes! In other exciting news, our baby CHJEN got engaged this Christmas. Naturally, I almost died with excitement / exploded with the amount of love and happiness I had for them both. Such an exciting time! Yay team weddings!
Tabi | Leftside | Azerbaijan
When I tell people that Azerbaijan is one of the top leagues in the world, their responses are often something along the lines of “where/what the heck is that?!” I actually just googled it to make sure I could provide a map for everyone and “2015 Azerbaijan Individual Chess Championships” just popped up and is being streamed live… so that’s something. So far, Tabi is having an awesome experience. They just finished up the annual Gloria Cup and finished third. Currently, they are in Antalya, Turkey, training until next week when they will play a Champions League match against Stiinta Bacau. They are ranked first in the Azerbaijan league at the moment and have high hopes of finishing the season off with the title. Tab was originally brought in as a two-year development player for this team but has been getting on the court a bunch (and kicking butt!) playing both left and right side. Her team consists of a Brazilian middle, the starting German National Team libero, two Serbian players, the Bulgarian-National Team captain, as well as four girls off the Azerbaijan National Team. Sounds pretty stacked to me.
Dani | Setter | Germany
Dani is currently in the city of Vilsbiburg, Germany. She arrived in late October to play for the second division Rote Raben team although she has done a lot of flip-flopping between the first and second team as both work very closely with each other. The last few weeks she was training with the first team and travelled to the Pokal Semi-Final and three league games. Dan says that even though the results weren’t what they were expecting, Vilsbiburg is a very strong club and are usually finishing the season in the top five of the Bundesliga. Her second team is currently ranked fourth in the league with the goal of finishing top three by the end of the season. She mentions that the team is “an eclectic group ranging in age and experience; three players are foreigners who played first division earlier in their careers, a couple girls are in their mid-twenties and have been in the club since high school, and the rest are youngsters living in the Internad (volleyball boarding school) hoping to develop and feed into the first team in the years to come.” Vilsbiburg is a very small city but volleyball is the main attraction, which means there is usually a ton of support from the local fans and supporters! Munich is also a quick train ride away so she’s pretty content that she gets the best of both worlds.
Jenn | Middle | Sweden
Every since Jenn has left for Sweden for her first professional stint, I have seen nothing but good and joyous things from this girl. So many photos have been posted with her grinning ear to ear, usually with some captured celebration on the court. She tells me that things have been going fantastically in Sweden and feels she really lucked out on her situation in Angelholm (is that really the name!?). They are currently going into the second half of the season undefeated and also “squeezed out a win in the Swedish Grand Prix” (which is a mid-year final for the current top four teams in the Swedish League). She is loving exploring and learning about life in Europe. So far she’s traveled to many of the southern parts of Sweden including Stockholm. She’s also explored Copenhagen, which I've personally only heard good things about. Having this be Jenn’s first time playing overseas, I asked her if it was everything she thought it would be. Her answer sums it up pretty well: