Friday, October 15, 2010

Aland FIVB Open

We had a few days to rest then prepare for our qualification in Mariehamn, Finland. The weather was off and on but considering how far north we were it wasn't bad! We were the first teams to train on a few of the courts and the sand was light and fluffy to the point where it felt like we could only jump 6 inches! We managed to get a few good sessions in and we felt prepared for the qualification tournament.

One of the things I look forward to in Finland is the food. There are a few restaurants that serve exquisite meals for only 8 euros! I feasted to say the least and I hadn't been this healthy on the road for quite sometime. It can be difficult to get good inexpensive food while traveling but in Aland it isn't the case.

After the qualification meeting we pondered our draw. We first drew a Suisse team (not the one we traveled with) and the winner of that match was scheduled to play the second ranked team in the qualification from China. We were VERY pleased with this pathway to the main draw and even though our ranking didn't point to us winning, we knew this was our tournament. We went to sleep that night with a hope and excitement for the next following day as it was our last chance to qualify for a main draw in 2010.

We awoke to the worst weather of the week. There was a pretty solid wind coming off the water and the rain was falling at a slant in large droplets. We ate our breakfast with that keen gleam in our eyes, focused on the two essential wins for the day. We warmed up in the basement of the Casino and marched to our court to play the Suisse when our names were called.

The balls were heavy and were being blown in a way that favoured the right side. Since I was on the left I was being targeted and I handled my sideout throughout the match. I was able to make a few points on both my spin and float serves and our transition game made enough points for us to lead comfortably throughout the match. We executed and converted points; we won with authority.

We warmed, showered and rested a bit after our match as the rain and wind forced a more thorough recovery. We downed some lunch and prepared mentally for the Chinese team and our eminent qualification. After speaking with a few teams about strategies, we decided to go after the big right side. We match up well against hitters and with the ball being heavier, his skills and power were surely to decrease.

We went strong at the taller of the two and experienced some success like we had planned. I was serving tough with the wind and it appeared the Chinese had no interest playing in poor weather. There were some great rallies and both teams battled hard for points but we came out golden in the end. 2 sets to 0 later and an excitement we hadn't felt as a team. The finals points were a bit nerve racking but we held our composure and earned our qualification!

BOOM!!! With rain pouring down and a cold wind in our faces we celebrated on our court and then headed over to cheer on Ben and Steve as they were finishing their qualification match. Sadly we weren't able to change their fate as they lost in 3 sets but we had our own personal victory to celebrate. On to our first team main draw meeting!!!

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