Grace Calnan, a fifth-year Dal Tiger, represented Canada at the North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation (NORCECA) Pan American Cup Final Six tournament this August.
Calnan travelled to the Dominican Republic with her team for the competition.
“It was a really crazy experience,” said Calnan. “Being there to represent your country is really special.”
In Canada’s final game against Puerto Rico, which determined fifth and sixth place, Calnan walked away with 12 points. This made her the best offensive player for Canada in that game.
“Honestly, when we were in the game, I had no idea I was getting up there in points,” she said. “I did not expect to leave that game with the most points.”
Calnan credits her sudden increase in points to her improved serving, which she was having a hard time with throughout the tournament.
“It just wasn’t as consistent as I wanted it to be,” she said, “but I don’t even know what changed. I just felt super confident and focused and it just worked out well for me.”
Disruptions and Disappointments
The final game was also the game where Calnan got the most playing time throughout the tournament due to tropical storm Franklin affecting their schedule. The storm caused a day’s worth of games to be postponed, forcing the team to play two games a day for the rest of the tournament.
“At that point we had to spread [out] the load a little bit, especially if our senior athletes were getting tired,” she said. “It was good to be able to get in there.”
Unfortunately, the game was a bit of a let down for the team, who had their sights set on making the semi final. They lost their spot due to a single bad set in the round robin.
Calnan says that disappointment was something the team talked about right before their last game.
“If we had won just one more set we would have made it to the semi finals, which was our goal,” she said. “I think just leaving this tournament, it’s all about having the mindset that every set counts.”
Calnan also said she is going to try and have this mindset when she plays her fourth season with the Tigers this year.
This wasn’t Calnan’s first time playing with team Canada. When she was 16 years old, she played for Canada’s youth national team. This was her second year in a row playing on the NextGen team.
This was the time she felt the most comfortable.
“I remember last year I was super super nervous because at tryouts I didn’t know anybody,” said Calnan. “It was just a bunch of random faces. But it was definitely more familiar this year.”
Despite having been on the NextGen team last year, Calnan still had to try out like everyone else. She sent in a video of her completing certain skills and attending an in-person tryout with 50 other athletes in Richmond, BC.
“Even after last summer, it’s never guaranteed that after you make the team once, you’ll make it again,” she said. “I’m just really grateful that I got this experience again and that I got to travel with this team.”
Calnan still feels that playing with the team last year helped her, even if it didn’t guarantee her spot.
“Last year it felt like a really big learning curve for me,” she said, “but then I got a lot of the foundational learning done, so this summer I had the opportunity to build on that a bit.”
Even though Calnan is experienced with this team, she’s far from the most senior on the team.
“A big difference for me this year was I got to play with some older players and people who have had way more volleyball experience than I have,” said Calnan. “When I play at Dal, I’m one of the older players on the team, but on team Canada, it’s a senior team. They just have so much knowledge I can learn from.”
The Dartmouth, NS native has been improving with experience throughout her time with the Tigers. She has gone from 0.6 points per set in her first season to 2.5 in her latest.
Calnan will be applying what she’s learned when she returns to the Tigers volleyball team on Oct. 28 for the opening game of their season.