WHEN Arnd Ludwig took over as coach of the Canadian women's volleyball team last year, the team actually dropped a notch in the international rankings to the 24th spot.
Ludwig expects that to change for the better this year as his squad prepares for the world championships, which for the team begins on Oct. 29 against Korea, and will run until Nov. 14.
Other teams with Canada in Pool D are Russia, Turkey, China and Dominican Republic.
"We will definitely move up," said Ludwig on Monday, "because we will have participated in the world championships."
Canada's last chance to fine-tune its skills begins today at noon when they take on No. 4-ranked Cuba in the first game of a three-game Super Series at the Investors Group Athletic Centre at University of Manitoba. The teams will play again on Thursday and Friday, with both matches starting at 7:30 p.m.
Leading Canada on the floor is team captain Tammy Mahon, of Holland, Man. Also expected to turn in a key performance is 6-foot-3 Tiffany Dodds, who can play outside or setter. "I'll do whatever it takes to win," Dodds told the Slam Sports website (http://slam.canoe.ca). "It might not be perfect but I'll do my best."
On a "very, very good day, we can beat Cuba," said Ludwig, adding that his team has shown improvement in every tournament they've played this year. "We played them once this year in the Pan Am Cup, and we were close. We won the first set, and were up 15-11 in the second. Then we started making errors."
Cuba, which is also preparing for the world championships, is solid. In the pasts five Olympic Games, Cuba has won three gold medals and one bronze.
Ludwig says errorless ball on his team's side of the net and a break or two on Cuba's side could make the difference between winning and losing this week, but doesn't put any stock in the chances that Cuba will commit mistakes.
"I don't look too much to the other side of the net for mistakes," he said. "This is our last real test for the world championships. We are at a technical level where we should decrease our number of errors. We've worked a lot on these things, and our main goal is to go out there and play an errorless series."