Sarah Pavan (left) and Melissa Humana-Paredes celebrated two wins over Canadian rivals Wednesday at the Fort Lauderdale Major
Fort Lauderdale, USA, February 28, 2018 - During the winter, Canadians flock to Florida to avoid being frozen out of the Great North.
As the luck of the draw would have it in the Fort Lauderdale Major, three pairs of snowbirds were crammed into the same pool, a rare occurrence on the FIVB World Tour as Wednesday's happening was only the 18th-time it has taken placed since the start of international play in 1987 for men and 1992 for women.
“We were both like shaking our heads,” Sarah Pavan said, explaining her reaction to the main draw groupings. “Is this even possible?”
With three of the four teams advancing to the elimination rounds of the 5-star event, that meant Canadian teams would be clawing and scratching to remain alive in the chase for the first Major Series medal of 2018.
And naturally, the drama of Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes facing Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson was another head-to-head matchup between Pavan and Bansley, who split as a team after competing in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Pavan and Humana-Paredes prevailed, 2-0 (21-12, 21-17). That means they advance to the round of 16 while Bansley and Wilkerson also advance but will be placed in the knockout phase. Meanwhile, Taylor Pischke and Jamie Broder return to the court Thursday to face Poland’s Kinga Kolosinska and Katarzyna Kociolek with advancement or elimination on the line.
Earlier in the day, Pavan and Humana-Paredes toppled Pischke-Broder, 2-0 (21-13, 21-14).
“We have to kind of like put that aside and not really focus on that at all,” Humana-Paredes said. “We’re here to play and perform so we always just focus on our side of the net and take care of that.”
“It’s unfortunate, you don’t want to play your own country in a tournament, let alone twice in the same pool,” Pavan said. “We want to win.”
Just as they showed during their run to fourth place in last summer’s FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships, the 6-foot-5 Pavan and the scrappy Humana-Paredes are rolling again.
“This game in particular, Mel’s sideout was pretty automatic,” Pavan said of the win over Bansley-Wilkerson. “Honestly, the balls she’s picking up on defense, I’m amazed. Every time I turn around off the block, she’s there making dime digs. Melissa’s making my job easy, she’s playing at a very high level. We’re feeling like a well-oiled machine, I guess you could say.”
At the same time, it was clear they wanted to breathe a sigh of relief and they’ll have a day off to rest, reflect and recover.
“Our Canadian pool party is over,” Humana-Paredes said with a smile.