Toon van Lankvelt is one of two Manitobans and two former University of Manitoba Bisons named to Canada's national senior men's volleyball team.
Joining van Lankvelt are Dustin Schneider of Brandon and former Bisons Steve Brinkman of Bowmanville, Ont., and Dan Lewis of Oakville, Ont. Van Lankvelt, Brinkman and Lewis are veterans of the team.
"This will be my sixth year with the national team," said van Lankvelt. "I was with the B team for three years and now the senior for three years. "
The pride of Rivers says that this year is special.
"We qualified for the world championships last year, so we have the world championship this September," he said. "This is a big step for this team. It is the same core of players I came up with on the B team, so now this is our first chance at the worlds."
The Canadians launch their international season early next week at the Pan American Cup in Puerto Rico. They will travel to Australia in June and play exhibition matches against Cuba in Canada later this summer before heading to Europe to finalize preparations for the September's world championships in Italy.
"We're looking really good," said van Lankvelt. "Everyone got in (Gatineau, Que.), this past week and now we're all training together. It's a tight group and it's exciting. Every spot is competitive.
"There is a definite possibility I can make the starting lineup, but everyone has to work for it."
The majority of players selected by head coach Glenn Hoag spent the winter playing professionally overseas, including van Lankvelt and Lewis.
"I played in Romania for Constanta the first part of last year," said van Lankvelt, "but there were some money problems with sponsorships, so I left the club and spent the last half of the year in Austria, playing for Aich-Dob. In Romania we won the league cup at the start of the year and in Austria we finished third."
Lewis helped Bled, Slovenia, a team also coached by Hoag, to a best-ever fourth place in the Champions League.
"The pro leagues are a higher level than most of the colleges," said van Lankvelt. "It's important to go there, because the international schedule is four or five months and it's good to get the game experience."
During his years on the Bisons, the 6-foot-5, 205-pound left side, was named a Canada West first team all star (2005) and a CIS all-rookie team member. In 2002 he was the Canada West rookie of the year.
The major hurdle standing in Canada's way of achieving its world championship goal is a mental one, said van Lankvelt. "There is definitely a lot of talent in this group. We just have to pull it all together."
University of Winnipeg Wesmen star Justin Duff was selected to the national B team.