Brandon’s Dustin Schneider, Rivers’ Toon Van Lankvelt and the Canadian men’s volleyball team accomplished their first goal of the summer season on the long weekend and now they’re turning their sights to the World League.
The Canadians, ranked 11th in the world, qualified for the world championship in Poland at a tournament in Mississauga, Ont., on Monday night. Every player on the roster received court time due to the lower level of competition and because they trained hard during the weekend. That has the team tired, but looking forward to opening the World League against Finland on May 31 and June 1 in Calgary.
"Very excited," the 6-foot-5, 200-pound Van Lankvelt said via telephone from Gatineau, Que., where the national team is training this week before heading to Alberta. "It’s always huge for us in the summer to get into World League and the quality of games that we get is definitely huge. Very excited going into it."
Canada was solid in the World League last season, making the final six. However, this year’s event has a different setup. Canada is in Pool C with Finland, Belgium and Australia and will play two home and away matches against each country, with matches every weekend through July 6. The top team in the pool advances to the Final Four in Australia, where one team will qualify for the final six in Italy.
It’s a long road to repeat last year’s success, but that’s not the main focus for the team, according to the 28-year-old Schneider.
"We had a good showing last year, but the format’s different this year," the 6-foot-1, 180-pound starting setter said.
"We’re also in a little tougher group and the main goal of our summer is the world championship in Poland. I think we’re going to want to get better through the World League and build, and I’d say that’s where we’re putting the pressure on ourselves."
The world championship is held every four years, as opposed to being an annual event like the World League. Poland will host the worlds from Aug. 30 to Sept. 21.
Canada will play its home World League first-round matches in Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver, and both Schneider and Van Lankvelt are excited to play in front of a western Canadian crowd.
It’s also a chance for Van Lankvelt to play in front of some family in Calgary and Vancouver, although he’s not sure how much court time he’ll see.
The 29-year-old expects to be the third left side for Canada. However, the pace of playing two World League matches every weekend and travelling around the globe takes a toll on players, which may get everyone some court time.
"This weekend for the qualifier was nice for us because everyone was able to play and get comfortable with each other," he said. "World League is always the same; it’s a really long and gruelling competition with six weeks of games each weekend and the travelling itself is quite demanding, so everyone on the roster will have their point when they have to step up."
With a gruelling month and a half ahead of them, Schneider knows it’s important the team gets some rest, but he doesn’t think that will be a problem.
"We haven’t had any time off since, we’ve been practising since the tournament ended, too," he said. "Guys are tired and then we get a weekend off, so I think we’ll be energized for the World League."
Meanwhile, Brandon University Bobcats women’s volleyball head coach Lee Carter joins the national women’s team today as an assistant coach. Canada, ranked 20th in the world, also qualified for its world championship on the weekend in Mississauga, with Dauphin’s Tabi Love playing a key role in its success.
Brandonite Lisa Barclay is on the team but exams at UBC kept her from the tryouts for the qualifier. The women are preparing for the Pan American Cup, which runs from June 10-21 in Mexico.