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Killer at v-ball net joins Canada's team

Ontario's Pavan played the best in U.S., Italy By Ashley Prest

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A lot has changed for Sarah Pavan since the left-handed volleyball right-side player last suited up for Canada's national women's team seven years ago.

But one thing has stayed exactly the same.

"Winning is what I'm about. I'm not interested in just being here for fun.Everywhere I go, that (winning) is the main objective," said Pavan, 23, who is in Winnipeg participating in this week's national team selection camp at the University of Manitoba. The 6-foot-5 native of Kitchener, Ont., will be living here for the next six months and training with the Winnipeg-based national team leading up to the 2010 world championship Oct. 29-Nov. 14 in Japan.

"I'm really excited to be playing with Team Canada again, but I'm nervous. I'm like the old player that's new again. It's a weird feeling, but I'm looking forward to everything that's ahead for us."

Pavan became the youngest player to ever suit up for Canada's senior women's team when, at just 16, she played at the prestigious 2003 World Grand Prix tournament in Italy. That was the last Team Canada saw of Pavan until now.

She went on to a star-studded college career with the Nebraska Cornhuskers (2004-08), winning a national championship in 2006 and being named the top female athlete in all of U.S. college sports in 2007. She holds three individual records at the school, where she posted a 4.0 grade-point average and graduated with a degree in biochemistry.

"I'm done with school, I'm injury-free and I'm just ready to get back into it again and play at a high level internationally," said Pavan, who has played volleyball professionally in Italy for the past two years with the A1-division SPES Volley Conegliano.

"Since I was young, I had always wanted to play for Canada. Playing back then (2003), it was more learning what it was about, whereas now I'm a lot older, I've done a lot more and it's about hopefully trying to make a difference now."

Team Canada head coach Arnd Ludwig said Pavan will have an immediate impact. He invited her to camp last year but a shoulder injury kept her out of action. This year, Pavan called him.

"Sarah is a very dominant player, a very good attacker and what you would call a go-to player. If you get the ball to her, she's going to kill the ball," Ludwig said.

"I think that if you play a year or two in Italy, you have a lot of experience. You play against the best players in the world. You have to compete at a high level every day and this is something that she will bring to the team."

Although there are other professional players at Canada's selection camp, Pavan is the only one playing in the Italian league, which is considered the best in the world.

Clubs give top players world-class treatment, providing them with accommodation, transportation and six-figure salaries. Pavan's has been reported at about US$150,000.

Also unlike most players, Pavan had options at the international level. She is a dual Canadian-Italian citizen by virtue of her father being born in Italy. Italy's national women's team invited her to their camp as well, so she had to choose.

"It wasn't easy. The Italians are the (seventh)-best team in the world. If you have a desire to be great, you want to play with the best, so that was definitely a very attractive possibility," Pavan said, noting Italy is the European champion and a perennial Olympian. Canada's women, ranked No. 24 in the world, last competed in the Olympics in 1996.

"It was a tough decision," Pavan said. "But I feel more Canadian than I do Italian, my loyalties lie more here than in Italy and I know some of the girls (here) and they're great people. I figure this is the best choice for me."

A group of 30 players begins two-a-day sessions today through Saturday at the U of M. Ludwig will then select a team of 14-16 players to compete in the Pan Am Cup in Mexico June 16-27.

Pavan Profile

Sarah Pavan has been at the top of her game everywhere she has played, including high school and club play in Kitchener, Ont., in her four-year career at the University of Nebraska, professionally with SPES Volley Conegliano in Italy's elite A1 league and internationally with Canada.

-- Tournament top scorer, 2004 NORCECA junior women's continental championship

-- NCAA rookie of the year, 2004-2005

-four-time Big 12 conference player of the year (2005-2007; rookie 2004)

-2006 NCAA Championship most outstanding player

-2006-2007 Honda-Broderick Cup winner (NCAA overall top female athlete)

-2008 NCAA Top VIII recipient

-three-time first-team conference academic all-star

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 6, 2010 C6

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