Dauphin’s Tabi Love helped the Canadian women’s volleyball team win its first tournament of the season and now she and Brandonite Lisa Barclay hope to bring the program to new heights this summer.
Love, who spent the winter playing professionally with Lodz in Poland, started at left side for the Canadians at the world championship qualifier in Mississauga, Ont., last month tallying 44 kills, six blocks and three aces in their four wins. Now the team is in Winnipeg to prepare for the Pan American Cup in Mexico from June 10-21 before they play in the Grand Prix in July and August and the world championship in September and October.
It will be a busy summer for the 22-year-old, and she hopes Canada can build its confidence as the summer goes on and the competitions get tougher.
"I know some players are on a break right now, so I’m not sure who’s going to Pan Am, but there’s a lot of focus on the Grand Prix," the 6-foot-5 Love said. "We haven’t been in it for a few years, so it was great we made the cut to go in. Now our big goal is to show we deserve to be there and place well, because it helps towards Rio and that’s our goal in 2016 building towards (the Olympics)."
Canada, ranked 20th in the world, hasn’t been in the Grand Prix, the women’s equivalent of the men’s World League, since 2003. This year, Canada is in Division 2 with Poland, Peru, Belgium, Puerto Rico, the Netherlands, Argentina and Cuba. They will play matches in Peru, Belgium and Argentina with the top four advancing to Poland, where one team will qualify for the Grand Prix’s final six.
The Grand Prix will challenge the players with lots of travelling in a short period of time while trying to keep a routine, and Barclay would love to be a part of it.
The 21-year-old UBC student was swamped with exams and travelling for the BLG awards and did not make Canada’s travelling roster for the world championship qualifier, but she’s working hard to impress head coach Arnd (Lupo) Ludwig and assistant coach Lee Carter of the Brandon University Bobcats, who’s working with the national team through the end of the Pan Am Cup, enough to make the trip to Mexico.
"There’s a lot of talented girls on the team, so I’m going to do my best and see how it goes," said the 6-foot-2 left side, who was named the CIS female volleyball player of the year. "I just want to get more experience playing at this level and work hard with the girls every day and get better."
Love was a little worried about the world championship qualifier as the players didn’t have a lot of time to get together and Canada had a history of struggling against Mexico, but she was happy that they dropped just one set in their tournament.
Although the team hasn’t set goals for the 12-team Pan Am Cup, Love has set her eyes on a medal, which she believes is realistic. She also hopes that she and her teammates can improve a lot this year and start a chain reaction that will result in an appearance in the next Olympics in Brazil.
"I want to see all of my teammates and I be successful and get better so that we can get good pro contracts next year and play in leagues that will improve our skill set again so we come back better next summer," Love said. "That has to be our goal so that each time we go into the gym together that we can raise our level every single day."