Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Great games but unfortunate result

After the rankings for the Brazilia FIVB open, we would up drawing the only other Canadian team in the tournament.  This is always a tough game to get excited for as playing fellow country men in a single elimination round outside your country leaves one team on a bitter vacation without volleyball. Ray and I kept solid attitudes and were able to stay calm and execute in this first round match.  We played extremely well, making few errors and created many defensive scoring opportunities.  The winner of our match drew Venezuela who are one of the most athletic teams on tour and by far the most aggressive offensively.

Venezuela's second team consists of two jumpers who elevate more than 38 inches out of the sand.  Their game is all power and little finesse and our game plan was for me to be an aggressive blocker and challenge them to shoot around me.  Ray and I made many great transition plays but we wound up losing two VERY close sets.  We played the best we have ever played and we couldn't be more pleased with the application of recent adjustments to our defensive strategies.  Ray played two fabulous defensive games but unfortunately the second was a loss. We made 5 errors in 2 sets and Venezuela made 1 error with quite a few lucky digs, lets and line touches.  We are pleased with our aggressiveness and look forward to our main draw start in China next week.

Ray will be heading back to Toronto early to attend to a sore knee and I will be staying here as I would like to scout the new teams on tour this year.  It will be a very even one as many freshly formed teams will be battling close games with each other, and the consistent top ranked teams.  

I will sign off for now as it is late but I hope to upload highlight vids of our games today shortly.

Good night from Brazilia! 

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Happy Birthday Brazilia

Ray, our coach Xendaco and myself have landed in Brazilia after our final training week in Rio de Janeiro.  We are here for the opening FIVB tournament of the 2009 World Tour season and we couldn't be more excited to play! As it turns out, it is Brazilia's 50th birthday today and the tournament is being held downtown where a projected 1.5 Million people will view the event and various free concerts in the downtown plaza!!  It was absolutely packed when we trained this morning and as we walked from the park to our hotel, we crossed a parade with more than 2000 cowboys riding their steeds.  Unfortunately with so many attractions downtown the danger of being robbed is much higher.  The stats for Brazilia's crimes rates are the worst in Brazil, and with free transit all day, all of the poorer surrounding areas will be entering the city to have some fun and potentially poach bags, purses and jewelry.  Locals have advised us to stay in our hotel and let the storm pass, so we will take their advice, stay inside and prepare mentally for our qualification tournament tomorrow!!!

Ray and I currently have quite a good ranking so we will most likely sit between 3rd and 6th in the qualification tournament.  This is a good position to be in as we play an inferior team ranked between 11th and 14th.  On a far more exciting note, Ray and I have earned ourselves a direct spot into the main draw for China, our next event! It is our first time not having to think about the single elimination qualification tournament so we are pleased to be able to travel all the way to Shanghai with peace of mind.

After a lovely afternoon rest with my feet up, I will return to the event site to watch the Brazilian country quota matches.  We will have our qualification meeting this evening where we will find out at what time and against who will have to play to enter the main draw Thursday.  It looks like we will have to win two games so it is crucial for us to rest well this evening and follow up our magnificent few days of training with patience and power.  

I will update this evening when we receive the draw!


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Stepping stones against Estonia and our newest video link

Greetings from the humidity of Rio this clear evening.  The big swell is calming now but the mist from crashing waves and the offshore breeze still blows and freshens the lungs.  It was a beautiful walk on the boardwalk after the gym today and I feel blessed to be in the situation I am in.  I spoke to my lovely sister today after she completed her final exam of her collegiate life and she too is in a wonderful position!!! 

We played a few training games against Estonia yesterday afternoon and proved to ourselves that we have the capability of matching top ranked international teams. The Estonias are a veteran team and bring a lot of poise and confidence to the table; something we haven't confirmed in ourselves yet.  We played three matches and came out on the bottom of all of them in terms of score but drew some valuable experiences.  As our coach Xendaco has explained to us many times, we shouldn't look on the other side of the net for a winning solution; the answers lie with us.  With so much time training, we haven't accepted our improvements and ability to win games we couldn't in 2008.  Each match we had a two or three point lead around 14 but gave the game away with silly amateur errors caused by anxiousness. Throughout the rest of this week we will concentrate on keeping calm during tense times and on executing the skills we have been programed to perform flawlessly!

It is officially a week out from our first tournament in Brazilia, Brazil and we couldn't be more excited.  The main draw/qualification list isn't out yet so we aren't sure where we are in the standings but we are hoping enough teams pull out for us to have a direct spot into the main draw! 

We will be playing another game against the Estonians tomorrow, a game against a Brazilian team Thursday and are hoping to get in with the Ces brothers from France before the weekend and our departure for the event!

Here is our most recent video production with footage from our training game against Germany last Friday.

Enjoy and cheers from Brazil!!!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Pre season WINS!!

It is a Saturday morning here in Rio de Janeiro and the sun was out early.  We just got back from a little road trip to Barra beach where we were supposed to play a special edition tournament for international guests.  It was a fantastic turnout with teams from Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Enlgand, Estonia, another Canadian team and a few Brazilians but unfortunately, we decided to abandon ship once we got due to federation rules. The FIVB has strict regulations concerning International players playing on domestic circuits and we felt that a 1 year suspension wasn't worth receiving for a fun Saturday of strong play. As it turned out, a massive swell came through today and apparently halfway through the event, a series of waves washed out the courts up to the road and soaked everybody! I can't imagine this because the courts are literally 100 meters from the waterline so the waves must have been immense! The organizers weren't able to salvage the damaged courts so the event ended abruptly with a super soaker!

We had a FANTASTIC week of game play training with top Norwegian and German teams.  We had two play days on our court where we all played each other and as Ray and I played more games, our confidence and team play sky rocketed.  We are pleased to say that we beat the Germans 3-1 and have a 2-2 set record with the Norwegians. It was also a nice touch to have the Olympic Estonian team come to us and ask to train.  The better english speaker was quite complimentary and it pleases Ray and I greatly to have teams we deeply respect come and organize sessions with us.  Our countless painful hours in the sand have paid off and I firmly believe it will be a breakout year.  I will hopefully have some new videos loaded in the near future but my computer is so full of songs, photos and videos that I don't have any space to load new footage! I will try to free up my hard disk and prepare a solid highlight clip of this week.

On Friday when we arrived at the beach, it was PACKED with international teams.  It has always been clear to me that this is the best place to train in the world and yesterday proved it to be true.  There are about 12 top international teams for men here and about the same for women.  Annie Martin and Marie Andre Lassard landed yesterday so we look forward to spending some time with some fellow Canadians and show them the hot spots here in our block of Ipanema!  

I am going to hop back into bed for a refreshing nap and then head to a BBQ hosted at a local hostel owned by someone in the v-ball crowd. I wish everybody a lovely holiday weekend and I will be posting early next week with results of our busy game schedule,

Tchau from Rio,


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Unfortunate Sickness

Sadly I must report that Ray has fallen ill over the last few days and we had to pull the pin on our trip to Sao Paulo where we planned to play a Brazilian National tour event. Ray picked up a sickness on Monday after our game in the rain and has been suffering from a sore throat, raging headaches and has been taking more naps than a new born.

The game we played on Monday was a fantastic one and we are excited about the progressions we are making every set we play together.  As I mentioned in the last post, we met against Guto and Oscar who are a top 10 Brazilian team.  They are both 6'6 six, solid athletes who tear on their jump serves. The Brazilian tour ball is smaller, heavier and bouncier so the locals crush their serves and spikes harder than in the international leagues making it more challenging for us to play with a new ball.  Ray and I lost the first set, won the second, lost the third and in a super close fourth, lost in overtime.  Regardless of the final more heated loss, we were pleased with our aggressive service and sideout play. Our coach has been focusing on improving our confidence and our new and elevated posture won us a few intense rallies and pushed us closer to the team we are capable of being.

With Ray quazi bed ridden since Tuesday morning, we were unable to play against the top swiss team and had to deal with the complications of being removed from an international tournament roster.  To add to the complexity, our coach had given the local government the thumbs up to go into the area close to our court to resolve some profound sewage problems in the sand.  This means our court is currently half dug up by a massive excavator.  The court should be fixed by Monday, but in the mean time I am peaking with my weight lifting program and running the most intense sand intervals of my life.  With two months of periodized strength and power conditioning, I am the leanest and quickest I have ever been and I feel my playing style is far more explosive.  The time it takes for me to recover from high intensity exercises is impressively shorter than when I started, so long rallies and running up to the net to block every game is a far more simple task.  The more games we play, the easier it is for us to make points and cohere on our quicker more varied offense.  Come April 20th in Brazilia, we will be a very forceful team.

Lastly, I am pleased to share that after speaking with Lululemon's team apparel program, w will now be sporting a full array of Lulu gear. I have also been working with Adil Amlani (my trusted designer for everything) and we have come up with logo's for our team apparel.  We just printed a test pair of game shorts here in Brazil and the outcome is incredible.  We will be committing to printing our entire game and training wardrobe shortly and then will be working with a professional photographer next week for team shots. I will post the photos as quickly as possible!!

Thanks for all the support!