Our first match was to finish off our pool play games. We played Kevin Ben and Denny Moser, a team who has been battling in the Ontario tournaments for quite some time and can play well when they need to. We new what we had to do but reserved our energy as we played close sets but sealed them out in the last switches when it counted. We won that game in control and finished our pool play with a 4-0 record. This allowed us to keep our second seed in the tournament and go on to play the 15th seed for the first round of single elimination playoffs. I am not sure what I said in my last update but this years format different from last years as now the playoff rounds begin after pool play.
The second game was against a classic duo who I have been playing for years. Ryan Cawsey of BC was playing with good friend Anton Hauser who has played in many FIVB events and is quite experienced. We decided to serve Ryan as he is the taller player and trains far less than his partner. The wind was quite strong and we managed to pull away strong in each set after being up 12-9 for the technical timeouts. We started ripping our jump serves into the wind but they controlled them handily so we switched to float serving and immediately were rewarded. Ryan was shaky on his passes and we forced him to hit quite a few hitting errors long with the wind. Ahren and I really gelled on defense and with a few set up blocking/defensive plays we sealed the game. This round of 16 match challenged us in the wind against a big block and helped prepare us for our quarterfinal match later that afternoon.
We were assigned center court for the quarterfinals and that is where I shine. I live to play on center court! I enjoy the showmanship of beach volleyball because it is such an interactive and exciting sport with spectators feet away from the court. This game was no exception and we played the best we have played together yet. Our opponents were a solid team that has had some success this year in Ontario. Paul Podstawka has been a National team athlete for a year or two and has traveled to play in a few international FIVB events. His partner was Dave Quinn who is a relatively new guy to beach volleyball in Canada since he has been playing pro indoor for the last while. They are a respectable team and we new we needed to play top notch ball from the first whistle.
We started on fire. They were serving me and I was siding out like my life depended on it. We were earning points on defense almost every time we went back to serve and we wound up taking a the first set 21-12. Thus far in our season we have had difficulty with teams we blow out in the first set. We knew we had to keep focused on our side of the net and stay motivated and aggressive to fend off their comeback. We dictated the second set from the first point and didn't let go throughout its entirety. We made some incredible plays on defense and really earned our lead. I hadn't felt that good for quite some time and they were forced to serve Ahren because I didn't miss a single attack. At 18-11 for us, Paul tried stalling for time after the whistle blew for my service and they received a red card. This brought the match to 19-11 and we earned the next two points to claim our most convincing victory yet!
It was a great day for us and we are really looking forward to building on our performance tomorrow. We will be playing Jessi Lelliott and Ben Saxton in the semis tomorrow morning at 10:30 and that is a match I would very much like to win. I have played with both of our opponents so there is a little more at stake then a medal!
Before I tuck into bed here, I just wanted to mention we went to a fantastic dinner tonight to celebrate the last 20 years of beach volleyball excellence in Canada. Mark Heese put together a fantastic BBQ and ceremony which was very touching and highly enlightening about the history of our sport here in Canada. It was held at the Bondi Beach Club which was where beach volleyball was first played in Canada in the 50's! I met some icons of our sport I didn't even know existed. There was an amazing video presentation put together by professionals at CBC which summarized some of Canada's highlights at the International and Olympic levels as well as an unveiling of a plaque with all past (and to be) National Championship winners. It was a great night full of emotion and pride with the backbone community of beach volleyball in Canada. It will be a great honor to stand on top of the podium tomorrow knowing a little more about the history of our sport and knowing how so many people supporting us across our vast nation.
Time for sleep and wish us the best for tomorrow!!!!