Two days ago we successfully entered the main draw through a lucky loser path. Amazing that it came down to luck but I had no doubt in my mind we would be competing in the main draw and sure enough, our friend Marcio pulled our names out first. Our draw matched us up with the number 3 team in the tournament, Russia's Barsouk/Koladinski who have had a few top 4 showings as of late. A difficult opponent for sure but I revel in games where we have nothing to lose against top teams. We came out firing and had a fabulous battle with them. We were leading the entire match 4-3, 8-6, 11-8, with me sideing out, but for us to go up 18-17, they served Ahren and I got called on a beautiful handset. Anger. I have never felt so much anger well up from inside me. What a silly call for the ref to make on a perfect handset; it was totally uncalled for and nobody watching our court agreed. This put is down in the 18-17 switch but we came back to tie it at 19-19. This is when the second terrible call didn't go our way. The second serve to go to Ahren came off the net and I gave him a high set on top of the tape. He got there a little late and tried to wipe the ball of the blockers hands out of bounds for us to get the point. He successfully used the blockers hands and it landed out on our side, clearly proving the point should be awarded to us. The ref didn't see it that way (besides all the obvious facts) and gave the point to Russia. We were absolutely livid but committed to making it back and winning the set. We were serving very well and I had 5 stuff blocks by this point in time; it was a perfect game aside from the ref stepping in unnecessarily. We pushed hard but in the end Russia overcame our strengths and won 25-23. What a disappointment for us to lose because without the two ref's unwarranted calls, we would have taken the first set. At this level, especially when you are playing a top 5 in the world team, the game comes down to 1 or 2 points making it crucial for every call to go the right way.
The second set they were steady and we were streaky. Frazzled by the ref's calls and trying to pass Igor's over 100 km/h spin serve, we slowly spiraled into a second set loss. And then when we hadn't heard from the ref all second set, he chirped in on another PERFECT hand set by me. UNREAL! Another high pass off the net and I took it high and quickly but the ref just didn't like its crispness and called it a lift. This was to sideout at 19-14, to make it 19-15. Ahren absolutely lost his mind and received a card (I am glad he did because that ref needed to know he was poo) so we ended the match on a red card point for the other team and lost 21-14!
Once we cooled off and settled back into our natural rhythms, we found out we were matched against Germany for our second match. This German team is a strong team and consists of two excellent jumpers who love hitting steep angles and hard spin serves. The scouting report was to block cross and trap them but unfortunately that plan didn't evolve into point making. We were on the outside court, almost on the water so the wind was gusty. The game came down to serving hard and sideing out on the bad side and they executed that better than us. I think we lost 21-17, 21-16 but we just weren't able to make ANY points. Ahren got the only block of the match and there were few rallies to count. For some reason they played more of a finesse game and it hit us where we didn't expect. On our side, we struggled to keep our sets in front of us so we lost our vision on offense, therefore making some silly hitting errors or mediocre attacks.
We now have one more tournament to go before we head back to Canada for our national championships. Aland, Finland is next week leaving us one more showing to excel for an entire game, or set of games. What we really need is a 3rd party to come and help us out. We aren't able to change our game because our perspectives come from inside the game and it is tough for each of us to coach each other when most of it is personal. We are lost in terms of what to change or not to change so our new Team Canada head coach will definitely be able to help us when we get back to Toronto. Either way, we are competing against teams with full coaching staff and support networks. I hate using this as an excuse, and I normally don't look at it this way but after an email from my mom, it rings true. We are alone out here, battling each week in new and different places while planning our next meals, hotels, transportation, game preparation and all the while maintaining our fitness and beach volley skills. There is no guidance, no external influence and few anchors other than each other on the road. We receive limited support from our federation and for this and the aforementioned reasons, our commitment is tested daily on the road to becoming champions. With all the odds against me, I am battling with everything I have and I am slowly breaking my oppositions down and building on my own successes. I will persevere because I am strong, I have a firm belief in myself and an undying passion for what I do and the goals I want to achieve.