Canadian volleyball women feel sense of urgency while eyeing Paris Olympic spot

No year in the past four has carried this much weight for the Canadian women’s volleyball program. 

Ranked 11th in the world, Canada will play 12 Volleyball Nations League games over the next six weeks in hopes of snapping a 28-year drought in Olympic qualifying..

On Monday, the team unveiled its 14-athlete roster for next week’s first stop in Rio de Janeiro.

“Excited is probably the wrong word. Everything feels really heavy right now,” head coach Shannon Winzer said last week from Richmond, B,C., before the team left for Brazil.

“Obviously we’re excited to go to the Olympics, but we’re in a pressure cooker. We’re in a high stakes environment right now. Even though our team feels a sense of urgency, everyone is really positive. We know we can qualify, but it’s a lot of work.”

The group has grown and progressed the last few seasons under Winzer. Last year in VNL, Canada beat world champion Serbia and five-time Olympic medallist Brazil, and took European powerhouses Italy and Poland to five sets. They upset China, a six-time Olympic medallist, in September at the Olympic qualifying tournament.

WATCH | Canada ekes out 5-set win over China at Olympic qualifier:

Canada stays alive with upset win over China at Olympic qualification tournament

Canada upset China Wednesday 28-26, 15-25, 25-23, 22-25, 17-15 Wednesday at the Road to Paris Women’s Volleyball Olympic Qualification Tournament in Ningbo, China.

Seven women’s teams have already qualified for the Olympics this summer in Paris. The Dominican Republic, Serbia, Turkey, Brazil, United States and Poland booked their tickets via the 2023 Olympic qualifier, while France earned a berth as hosts. 

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The remaining five places are filled by selecting the top five not yet qualified teams in the FIVB world rankings at the end of the preliminary phase of VNL.

Canada begins its VNL campaign — and hopeful path to its first Olympics since 1996 in Atlanta — on May 14 against hosts Brazil, followed by matches against the Dominican Republic, China and Thailand.

Explosive players like captain Alexa Gray of Calgary and Kiera Van Ryk of Surrey, B.C., power the attack, which is quarterbacked by setter Brie (King) O’Reilly of Langley, B.C., who plays professionally with Flamengo in Rio. 

Arlington, Texas will be the second VNL stop May 28-June 2, while Fukuoka, Japan will host the final tourney of the preliminary round from June 11-16.

WATCH | Canada defeats world champion Serbia in 5-set thriller:

Canadian women edge Serbia in Volleyball Nations League 5-set thriller

Canada’s women’s volleyball team beats defending world champion Serbia 18-25, 28-26, 25-23, 18-25, 15-12 for their second victory of the season.

Canada roster, Week 1

  • Brie O’Reilly — Langley, B.C.
  • Courtney Baker — Bridgewater, N.S.
  • Emily Maglio — Coquitlam, B.C.
  • Jazmine White — Oshawa, Ont.
  • Alicia Ogoms — Winnipeg
  • Layne Van Buskirk — Windsor, Ont.
  • Alexa Gray (C) — Calgary
  • Hilary Howe — Calgary
  • Andrea Mitrovic — Mississauga, Ont.
  • Vicky Savard — Jonquière, Que.
  • Kiera Van Ryk — Surrey, B.C.
  • Shainah Joseph — Ottawa
  • Julia Murmann — Toronto
  • Kacey Jost — St. Albert, Alta.

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