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Last chance to fulfil dream

Mahon's road to London Olympics runs through Tijuana tournament

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T he NORCECA Olympic qualification tournament, which opens in Tijuana, Mexico this weekend, is the last chance for the Canadian national women's volleyball team to qualify for the London Olympics.

It's also the final boarding call for Tammy Mahon to fulfil a lifelong dream.

"Yeah, I've thought about it," the pride of Holland, Man., said between practices at the University of Manitoba Monday. "This is my 11th year on the team and probably my last chance for the Olympics, but I don't see any of it as a negative. I don't know if I've ever played out of desperation. ... it's going to be an emotion that I'm going to have to deal with."

The lone Manitoban, Mahon was named to the final 12-player roster Monday. The national squad members, all who were around the globe playing for various club teams, gathered in Winnipeg last week to begin preparations for the 'last chance for London' qualification tournament.

The Winnipeg-based national team is currently ranked No. 22 in the world and is in a difficult round-robin pool with the Dominican Republic (ranked No. 9), Puerto Rico (19) and Honduras (69). Should Canada find success in those matches, they would then cross over to face the likes of Cuba (10), Mexico (27), Costa Rica (28), or Trinidad & Tobago (34) in the playoff round.

"We consistently compete against these teams, so we know exactly what to expect. There isn't one country at this event that just blows everyone away," said Mahon, who played professionally in Germany this winter.

"If we can get a break or two, which you need in an event like this, I like our chances."

Mahon, 33, says there is strange calmness around the Canadian squad. There's a confidence and an understanding within everyone, the veteran says, that the hard work and different experiences put in over the last three years has built up to prepare for this moment.

But in the next breath, she points out the reality of the situation. The pressure builds as the event draws closer. There are no more opportunities for Canada after this event.

On a personal note, the Tijuana tourney is Mahon's third Olympic qualifier.

"What would it mean for me to qualify? Yeah... that's a big one," says the well-spoken captain. "For me, it would just be a culmination of 11 years. The struggles, the successes -- I look back on everything I've been through -- the coaches I've had and all the players I've played with. It's hard to describe what it would mean.

"I want it for myself, of course, but I want it really bad for Volleyball Canada and this program. I want it really bad for just the sport in Canada. I just want to do it because I feel like it would be the ultimate honour for those -- friends and family -- who have supported myself for the last 11 years.

"Of course (the Olympics) is my dream... but qualifying, in my mind, would be the ultimate payback or gift to all those people. I feel like a lot of people share that dream with me."

London calling

The Canadian national women's volleyball team needs a win at the NORCECA Olympic qualification tournament (April 29-May 5) to qualify for the 2012 Summer Games in London. A quick look at the particulars heading into the event.

The roster:

Left side -- Tammy Mahon (Holland, Man.), Tonya Mokelki (Weyburn, Sask.), Liz Cordonier and Kyla Richey (Vancouver)

Middle blockers -- Jennifer Hinze and Marisa Field (Vancouver), Tasha Holness (Calgary)

Right side -- Sarah Pavan (Kitchener, Ont.) and Brittney Page (Vernon, B.C.)

Setters -- Jaclyn Ellis (Mississauga, Ont.) and Kelci French (Okotoks, Alta.)

Libero -- Julie Young (Red Deer, Alta.)

The schedule:

April 29: Round-robin match #1 -- Canada vs. Puerto Rico

April 30: Round-robin match #2 -- Canada vs. Dominican Republic

May 1: Round-robin match #3 -- Canada vs. Honduras

May 2: Quarter-finals

May 4: Semifinals

May 5: Final

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 24, 2012 C5

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