Saturday, September 18, 2010
Scandinavia and our first Main Draw!
In Kristiansand Liz and I qualified for the main draw! Our first game in the qualifier was against a strong Germany team of Laboureur/ Lehmann. Lucky for us we had played one of the girls the week prior in St.Peter-Ording, so we knew a little bit about her. It was a tough battle, but we came out on top winning 2-1 (20-22, 21-17, 16-14). Our last game of the qualifier was against Mexico (Reyes/ Virgen), a team that we have come across a couple times while playing in the Norcecas. We had beaten them in the past, so we had the confidence that we could win again, but our toughest task was to not be over-confident. We managed to stay focused, and won easily 2-0 (21-14, 21-12) to qualifier for our first time as a team in the main draw! What does this mean? It meant that we now had the opportunity to play in the double elimination tournament of the main draw, earn more points for our international ranking and seeding, and we didn't have to pay for hotels or food for the rest of the week (a huge help considering Norway is one of the most expensive places we've ever visited)!
Because it was our first time qualifying for the main draw, Liz and I were ranked pretty low, and our first game of the day matched us up against the number 3 seeded team of China (and eventual silver medalists). The Chinese team is a really strong team, with lots of experience (one of them winning the silver medal at the 2008 Olympics in China), and we lost 2-0 (21-13, 21-12). Our loss, while discouraging, was also eye opening. After reflecting on the game, it gave us a better idea about what we needed to work on as a team to get better. Our second game of the tournament we were matched up against Great Britain, another team that we had played before (in Marseille). We were able to turn ourselves around after our loss in the morning to play consistent and win in the afternoon 2-0 (21-17, 21-11). The next day we were matched up with the fourth seeded team of Brazil. We went into the game a little intimidated and without much confidence and lost the first set 21-12. After the first set, we realized that we could be competitive with this team. We started executing our game plan more effectively, and making plays on defense. We ended up loosing the second set 23-21, but we proved to ourselves that we could compete with a top team. I also learned that we have to be confident going into all of our games, thinking that we can win, something I lost sight of before that match. Because it was our second loss of the tournament, we were done, placing 17th. A very good result for us! Overall it was a great experience playing in my first main draw!
After Norway, we flew to Stockholm where we spent one night. From Stockholm we took a ferry to the small island of Aland, Finland where our next tournament was. The ferry was a lot of fun, it was about the size of a small cruise ship. It was a really nice day, and we sat on the back deck where there was a live band playing and people sitting all around. The landscape looked a lot like Muskoka, it was beautiful. Being an island, Aland was a really small, quaint town. We spent the first couple of days practicing prior to the tournament.
The qualification tournament for Aland had a lot of teams, so we had to play 3 rounds. Our first game was against a young Chinese team, we won 2-0 (21-13, 21-12). Our second round we played the same Great Britain team again. Once again we were faced with the challenge of knowing that we could beat a team, but not being overly confident. We were able to keep our focus and edge and we beat them again 21-18, 21-9). Our last game of the qualifier was against a really solid German team. We were playing really well, and serving tough in the wind. The game was very close, and could have gone either way. A couple unforced errors in the game cost us, and we lost by 2 in the last set 2-1 (19-21, 21-17, 13-15). It was a heartbreaker for me because I know that we could have won that game, the only difference being a couple of points. We played great, but sometimes its hard to keep that in mind!
After a couple more days of training and watching games in Finland we flew home to prepare for the Canadian National Championships.