Firstly, to those of you who don't know about the "Lucky Loser", it is a draw that occurs between the two highest ranked losing teams at the end of the qualification tournament to fill in a main draw spot caused by a late withdrawl from a pre-qualified team.
We were blessed enough to have a few teams withdraw late from the event here as we lost a tight game to Mexico in the last round of the qualifier.
Our first game was against a Swedish team who didn't have many points. We were ranked 5th in the qualification tournament which lined us up to play two rounds against teams with fewer points than us. The Swedes didn't have much experience at the international level but were good athletes. It was a bit windy on the exterior court in the bay so we were able to capitalize on our superior ball control and patience. We didn't play our top game and it worked best for us as we got the win and the Mexican team scouting us didn't get much of a report!
Our second match featured a battle against a Mexican team who is very strong. They took some time off at the end of last year and the start of this year so they had considerably fewer points than their skills indicated. We started the match with crisp sideouts and made a few points here and there on both Mexican players but wound up being down 18-17 after a heavy rally. We sided out a few more times and wound up stealing the advantage back at 20-19. Unfortunately we weren't able to hold onto our sideout composure and lost the match 23-21. We had been so strong throughout the beginning of the match but when it came time to push for the win, we over thought the situation and wound up changing what was working for us in the first place.
In the second set we immediately went down 3-1 and couldn't bring the score back to even over the rest of the set. We went down 9-5 and they held us at that scoring distance for the rest of the match. We wound up tightening our playing style and making a few more tentative errors, errors we told ourselves we wouldn't make since our team excels with big serves, spikes and blocks. The Mexicans fought hard and earned the second set Victory after many great rallies and digs. We are still trying to figure out what went wrong and how they beat us but that is a lot tougher when your camera ran out of batteries and didn't record the game!
With this loss in the last round, we were in solid contention for the "Lucky Loser" draw at the Men's Technical Meeting. We showed up and our good friend Marcio (08 Olympic Silver Medalist) said he would sit in the front to specifically draw our name for us out of the bowl! We trusted him and had faith we were going to be chosen and sure enough, we were the first team picked! There were three spots available for lucky losers so we had a maximum of 3 draws to receive main draw status. Marcio chose our names after grabbing one and thinking it wasn't the right slip! He pulled through for us and we are now preparing for tomorrow first round match against the 3rd ranked team in the event. This top ranked team is the first Russian team and we look forward to implementing a solid game plan to post an upset.
Thanks for all the best wishes from home and I will definitely be typing out my last few weeks once we are finished with the main draw here in our second Norwegian FIVB stop.