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This article was published 31/7/2017 (1384 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The first day of beach volleyball action couldn’t have gone any better for Team Manitoba.
The stands at the Sargent Park Beach Volleyball Centre were filled with Manitoba fans ringing their cowbells and cheering for the home team and neither the men’s or women’s team disappointed the crowd. Both teams went undefeated and neither one lost a set.
Twin sisters and University of Manitoba Bisons players Josie and Kearly Abbott took down New Brunswick in straight sets (21-13, 21-13) to start the Canada Games with a winning record.
The sisters — who are coached by Olympian Wanda Guenette — made easy work of New Brunswick and dominated both sets with their strong defence and attack.
"We were swinging as hard as we could. It’s hard to stop when the other team is swinging hard, so that’s something we always try to do right from the start," said Kearley, who was born 18 minutes before Josie was.
The girls have been playing volleyball since Grade 7, but this is only their fourth season of hitting the sand to play beach. They said it was important for them to start the tournament with a win and that playing in front of so many fans was a memorable experience.
"It’s really exciting. At all of the events we’ve played at, we’ve never been home, in front of our friends, family and Manitoba supporters. That makes it an extra special experience," said Kearley.
The Bisons’ women’s volleyball team had a young roster this season, with Josie and Kearley getting significant playing time as freshmen. Josie says playing against older players all year has helped the sisters prepare for the Canada Games and that despite the fact they’re not too familiar with the opposing teams, their goal is to be standing on the podium at the end of the week.
"Obviously, our goal is to win. But each game we want to get better and better leading up to the playoffs and grow as a team," said Josie.
The Abbott sisters have had a lifetime to build chemistry, but Daniel Thiessen and Ben Hooker of Toba’s men’s team have only had three months.
Volleyball Manitoba selected the boys as the representatives for Team Manitoba after tryouts several months ago. Thiessen, who plays at the University of Winnipeg, and Hooker, who plays at University of Western Ontario, said they’ve been familiar with each other for a long time but this is the first time they will be standing on the same side of the net.
"We’ve been rivals throughout our entire playing careers. We hadn’t really talked to each other, ever. It’s been interesting getting to know Ben these past couple months and it’s been working out really well," said Thiessen.
Day 1 definitely worked out well for the duo, as they easily handled New Brunswick (21-13, 21-14) and Newfoundland and Labrador (21-10, 21-12) to give them a 2-0 record.
"I think our playing styles really play well together. Our personalities get along well, too. We haven’t had a difficult time getting along," said Hooker.
Although Hooker and Thiessen don’t know each other very well, they have something in common that makes them a unique team. Both are left-handed and they believe it can give them a slight advantage.
"I’ve never heard of a beach team with two left-handed guys. Most teams probably haven’t seen a two left-handed team either," said Hooker.
Thiessen and Hooker said they have never played a beach volleyball game in front of that many people before and it definitely made them feel special.
"After the game, I was walking into the stands and I had random people telling me ‘good job.’ I was pretty pumped about it and felt like a bit of a celebrity for the first time," said Thiessen.
Similar to the Abbott twins, the boys aren’t too familiar with the teams that they are up against in the event. And despite playing together for only a couple of months, Hooker says the goal is to win for Manitoba and to continue to give the local fans something to cheer for.
"We’re here for the gold," said Hooker.
Both teams are back in action today at the Sargent Park Beach Volleyball Centre. The Abbotts will take on Team Nova Scotia at 7 p.m. and the Toba boys will play Team Yukon at 3 p.m. before their final match of the day at 6 p.m. against Team Saskatchewan.
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.