The NORCECA Women’s Continental Championships start this week in Omaha, Nebraska, and Canada’s National women’s team is looking to make strides with its young team.
Canada finds itself in a pool with Puerto Rico and St. Lucia; we’ll touch on that a little later.
Historically, Canada has had quite a bit of success at this event, with two silver medals and eight bronze medals, including a streak between 1983 and 1995 where we medalled in every tournament. Unfortunately, seeing Canada on the podium is something that hasn’t happened in over a decade, the last one coming in the form of a third place finish in 1999 in Monterrey, Mexico.
At the 2011 edition, Canada had a disappointing finish, losing to Mexico 3-1 to finish sixth. But with only two girls from that squad remaining (Marissa Field and Brittany Page), will a younger, revamped Canadian squad turn the fortunes?
At the 2013 Pan American Cup in Peru this year, there was a glimmer of hope. The team had a very strong pool play; starting with a tough five-set loss to perennial powerhouse Cuba, but then rebounding defeating host Peru in a second five-set thriller in as many nights, an finally closing it out with a 3-0 sweep of Costa Rica.
Canada was agonizingly close to clinching a spot in the Grand Prix, getting two cracks at it, but failing both times. The first came against Brazil in the quarterfinals, where Canada fought hard, but lost in yet another match going the distance, 3-2. Next, they fell against another NORCECA opponent, Puerto Rico, 3-1.
Canada did finish on a good note, beating Peru for a second time, this time sweeping them 3-0, to finish seventh.
The roster will be similar to the one that competed in Peru in June, with only Dana Cranston replacing Kyla Richey, and Kelci French replacing Danielle Smith. The loss of Richey will be a significant one, as she was a go-to player on the leftside for Canada in Peru.
Canada opens the tournament on Tuesday September 17th against St. Lucia, and will play possibly their most important match of the tournament against Puerto Rico the following day, on Wednesday September 18th.
Puerto Rico is the target because they’re the closest ranked NORCECA team. Canada enters the competition ranked 23rd, while Puerto Rico sits just three spots ahead in 20th. If Canada’s women’s program wants to start taking steps towards the 2016 Olympics, it has to start now, against teams that have competed at the highest stage. Puerto Rico competed at the 2013 FIVB Grand Prix, finishing 18th.
Luckily, Canada’s young squad may just be the ones the make that turn around. With young stars like Shanice Marcelle and Lisa Barclay stepping up to fill the gaps, maybe it’s time to bring Canadian female volleyball back to the culture that was in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s, where winning a medal was expected.