Wednesday, September 28, 2022

As emerging Canadian beach volleyball pairing continues to grow, trust builds. CBC Sports

Brandy Wilkerson remembers feeling a natural level of nerves, anxiety, and anticipation at the Tlaxcala Challenge beach volleyball event in Mexico this past spring. It was his first in five years without Heather Bansley, who had retired a few days earlier.

They were the top-ranked women’s team in the world before finishing fifth at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in late 2018 and early 2019. But Wilkerson began a new partnership in February with six-footer Sophie Bukovec, an undersized blocker who had spent two years replacing the defender and waiting for a call from his fellow Canadian.

They did not make it out of the qualifying round at Tlaxcala, with Germany’s Sarah Schulz and Chantal Lebauer winning their final match in the season-opening Challenger competition 21–15, 21–19.

“For Sophie on the world tour playing in a new position with a new partner, everything was extremely new,” said Wilkerson of the opening stop of the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour. “I can only imagine the amount of pressure that was building up.

“But what I recognized immediately was his ability to withstand that pressure, put himself out there and [show] Resilience in those difficult moments. Even when we lost, it was not because we gave up. I always thought she would try to give her best and that has been a theme this year.”

Wilkerson and Bukovec, who spent the last year grinding it out at one-star events, quickly developed chemistry on the sand and entered their fourth tournament in June – the World Championships in Rome – as the 20th seed in a 48-team field. in the form of. They finished second and fifth in their two most recent competitions.

look | First-year partner Bukovec, Wilkerson capture world silver medal

Canada lost to Brazil in the final of the Beach Volleyball World Championship

Brazil’s Eduarda Santos Lisboa and Ana Patricia Silva Ramos won the gold medal by defeating Canada’s Sophie Bukovec and Brandi Wilkerson in straight sets at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championship in Rome.

Ranked 13th in the world, Wilkerson and Bukovec didn’t get much of a pre-season and quickly jumped into the tournament, so they decided to end their season at this week’s Paris Elite 16, with two events left. Huh.

The Toronto native plays against second-year pros Kristen Vein and Taryn Cloth of the United States on Thursdays at 7 a.m. ET. At 3 a.m. on Friday, they will face Betsy Flint and Kelly Chang, who won the most recent Elite16 tournament in Hamburg, Germany.

Live coverage will be available on and CBC Gem, continuing through Thursday at 3 a.m. ET.

Wilkerson and Bukovec lost 21-16, 21-13 in the quarter-finals in Hamburg to the current world No. 1 pair of Brazil’s Barbara Sixtus and Carol Solberg, who have won four medals in 2022.

“I think we were playing very well until [Bukovec got injured] And felt confident,” Wilkerson said. “Passing is something we were working on that whole tournament and we’re trying to be more aggressive with our serve.”

It was something that just needed time and rest to heal. … she will always find a way [to play],– Brandi Wilkerson on the sprained wrist of beach volleyball partner Sophie Bukovec

Since that tournament in mid-August, Wilkerson has played a number of Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP) events with various partners, including Melissa Humana-Paredes, her former teammate at York University in Toronto, a recent teammate. Sara is separated from Pawan.

Bukovec spent downtime caring for a sprained right arm and reunited with Wilkerson for a training camp in Los Angeles two weeks before moving to France.

“It was something that just needed time and rest to heal. We’re back to full hits,” Wilkerson said recently, noting that Bukovec had taped the arm at camp and sported a brace, but was not sure what would be necessary during matches in Paris. “She will always find a way.” [to play], She will fight.”

Perhaps Bukovec will find the answer for Nuss and Kloth, who beat Wilkerson and Humana-Paredes twice, including in the final at AVP’s Chicago Open earlier this month. Bukovec and Wilkerson haven’t played them together.

Wilkerson, who beat Knuss and Kloth with a different teammate a week before the Chicago Open, plans to take advantage of his familiarity with the Americans in Paris.

“Sophie is physically bigger than the other partners I’ve played with, extremely strong and dynamic,” she said. “He has a great presence, so I think they will face a very big team.”

Knuss and Cloth displayed new skills in Chicago, added Wilkerson, served differently and had more two-ball options. In a two-ball offence, a player hits the ball on the second contact after the service reception, rather than setting it up for the third contact.

“Now that I’ve seen more of their offenses,” Wilkerson said, “I’m starting to understand more of their instincts and see what works and what doesn’t. [against them],

Wilkerson pointed out that he has done more off the two balls of late and this could help against Flint and Cheng, who take advantage of the latter’s variety of two-ball options.

Chang’s Wilkerson said, “She will do the slow shot, the hard hit, or in different places because of how comfortable she is with that offense,” versus guys who use two balls when they are forced or once. In , you only see one area of ​​the court used or one style of hit.

“They will be persistent and will not make big mistakes. Betsio [is] A stable, solid passer, defender and server, so it’s a matter of making sure we’re prepared for all the odd plays they make and minimizing errors.”

As first-year partners, Wilkerson and Bukovec have developed a way to communicate their game plans and find routines before and after the game. The trust between them, Wilkerson explained, was first established through admiration and respect for each other and their respective journeys to become elite athletes.

Bukovec, who suffered a right-arm sprain at the Hamburg Elite16 event in Germany six weeks ago, has impressed his teammate with the transition from blocker to defender. “It’s one thing to get the ball out [sand] But then getting up and scoring is a whole other thing,” Wilkerson says. (courtesy

‘My game has grown a lot in my confidence’

“When we saw that we would fight through those difficult moments together – coming back from a string of losses and errors – and saw how we responded and supported each other, trust continued to grow, she said.

“I’ve been trying to learn new skills and my game has grown tremendously in my confidence, in my abilities, and in playing leadership roles. Managing a team is something I grew up doing.”

Wilkerson mentioned how Bukovec, who won the under-21 world championship with Tiadora Mirik, is finding her own style of defense, and has been impressed by her ability to dig.

“It’s one thing to get the ball out [sand] But then getting up and scoring is a whole other thing,” Wilkerson said. “I think it will continue to set him apart from other defenders.

“There’s still a lot of things to improve and we just have to work with our heads down.”

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