An unlikely road to success

By Kris Kotarski

The story begins with genetics. No one knows where it will end, but the next stop is in Guadeloupe, somewhere on the tranquil beaches and forgotten sunsets of the French West Indies.

Amanda Moppett and Alisa Marriott are too short for high-level volleyball. At least that’s what they’re told. Moppett, named Dinos captain in her second season, does not get the respect she feels she deserves. Neither does Alisa Marriott, named the best player in Canadian university volleyball just two seasons ago. Aside from blistering skill on the court, the two share the dubious honour of repeated rejection by Canada’s indoor-volleyball brass. Their solution? Take their game outdoors and excel beyond their own expectations.

The partnership has its roots on the hardwood floor of the Jack Simpson Gymnasium. Moppett and Marriott have played side-by-side for three seasons now, plenty of time to bond and learn each other’s games. They both excelled for the Dinos, "excelled" because Marriott’s 2001/2002 season was her last.

Their game carried over seamlessly to the beach last summer when the pair ditched their old partners and decided to play together. This seemed like a good idea since the two were comfortable with each other from their Dino days. Marriott lived in Edmonton, Moppett lived in Calgary, and they met halfway for weekend tournaments in Sylvan Lake. There was no training, no coach and no sponsors, but there was plenty of skill.

Just like that: second place in Alberta and a trip to Nationals in Toronto. Second place in AA and seventh in AAA. All this against older, more experienced players who train. No doubt about it, that summer opened their eyes. Disappointment on the hardwood turned to quiet optimism on the beach.

Fast forward to the Dinos season. A second straight conference title for the U of C and a heartbreaking loss to Manitoba in the national final. Somewhere in there Moppett struggled with a shoulder which almost fell out every time she took a swing. Marriott’s knees were pretty rough too–five years of university ball took its toll.

In the middle of all this, Moppett filled out an application for the first ever World University Championships in beach volleyball. She thought Marriott wasn’t eligible because her five years of varsity ran out, so she pencilled in Dinos libero Tara Deaks as the replacement. Funny how things worked out. Deaks’ back gave out on her at season’s end and Moppett found out Marriott was in fact able to play. For the first time ever, the pair will enter international competition.

Things are falling into place. A new sponsor came through and paid for a part of the trip. This happened only two weeks ago, great timing considering travel expenses to a secluded Caribbean island do not come cheap. There’s still no coach, but their physiotherapist is going. Upon hearing about the pair’s newest journey, he got funding and decided to come along.

In the meantime, the pair continues training. They can’t afford private court time so they play at Millennium Park or the Volley Dome. Training isn’t always easy without a coach, and junior high skaters hoot and holler at the sight of beach gear. But somehow, they both keep smiling. They even posed for our cover, did hour-long interviews and planned a cabaret at Outlaws to raise more funds. They were tired, but they tried not to let it show.

They leave June 16th to represent Canada. This will be the first time their gear has a maple leaf on it, something they’re both very proud of. They’ll bring some clothes and some music but no coach. They have no experience, they’ve never seen any of their competition in action but they do have a devoted physiotherapist.

It almost sounds like everything is coming together until you learn they have a stop over in Puerto Rico. Predictably, Moppett and Marriott made no arrangements for a place to stay. They figure they might spend the night on the beach–it should be warm, and it’s only a night. After that, it’s on to Guadeloupe, on to volleyball and on to glory.

Somehow, you can’t help but feel everything will turn out alright.


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