Canadian women salvage pride

By Toby White

Canada’s women’s volleyball team finished the 2003 Summer Universiade in South Korea with one more win under their belts, an 11th place standing and a good helping of Canadian pride. The women closed out their tournament on Sat., Aug. 30 with a close 3-2 win over the Italian squad.

The U of C’s Amanda Moppett was pleased with the team’s performance in the tournament and said the women were proud of their efforts.

"It was an honour," said Moppett. "It was great to represent our country."

Head Coach Normand Bouchard felt the young team, with little international experience, held their own against more experienced teams. Most teams train together for months before the Universiade, while the Canadians met a few weeks before the games to train in Japan. Bouchard feels that with a concerted effort, the Canadian team could dominate the tournament.

"We have good players and coaches in Canada," said Bouchard. "We could compete with the top teams."

Graduated Dinos middle blocker Tracy Keats agrees.

"We got better with every game we played," said Keats. "It’s too bad about our losses. I’m sure we could beat those teams if we played them again."

Both teams got off to a sluggish start in Saturday’s tilt, with the Canadians pulling ahead early, taking an 18-14 lead. The Italians rallied back however, and briefly tipped the scales 22-21 against the Canadians. In the end, an easy kill followed by a hit out by the Italians gave the set to Canada 25-22.

However, the Canadians were unable to stop the Italian advance in the second frame. Italy surged ahead 10-5, and while the Canucks tried to pull back with some good rallies, they could not close the gap. The Italians sucked the energy out of the Canadian defense and took the set 25-14.

"The level of play yesterday [against Japan] was very high," said Bouchard. "We were slow today, it wasn’t our best game."

The loss in the second set woke the Canadians up. They trailed early in the third set but some wicked kills from Moppett, who picked up 11 in the game, and a stuff by Keats put the team up 18-13. The Canadians’ heavy hitting gave them the frame 25-19.

The fourth set showed that both teams had shaken off their rust and were back in form. The teams traded barrages until they were tied 20-20. The Italians then broke through the Canadian defenses to make it 24-20. Some strong moves and a point by Moppett brought it back to 24-23, but a bad block handed the hard-fought set to the Italians 25-23, evening the game at two apiece.

"Some players were frustrated," said Bouchard. "It was hard to get

The Canadians pulled out their big guns when it counted in the fifth. Great kills and excellent work by Keats and Moppett at the net brought the Canadians ahead 12-8.

A sweet attack by Manitoba’s Julie Salyn followed by a nice shot from Bisons teammate Tammy Mahon over a bad dig by the Italians gave the deciding set to the Canadians 15-10.

Keats, who is finishing up her amateur volleyball career, was impressed with the victory.

"It wasn’t the prettiest win, but it shows a lot about our character," said Keats. "It was a struggle and a fight but we pulled out a win."

Moppett was thankful to add some international experience to her record, and was pleased with the solid team the Canadians built.

"We had a very positive experience for a new team," said Moppett. "I think we’ve done very well against teams like Japan. We could accomplish a lot if we took it one step further."

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