Canadian celebration for Brandie Wilkerson as she and Heather Bansley advanced to the "Sweet 16" by defeating a team from Finland in a Fort Lauderdale Major elimination match on Thursday afternoon.
Fort Lauderdale, USA, March 1, 2018 - Maybe that up-and-coming star label is starting to become a thing of the past for Brandie Wilkerson.
The 25-year-old Canadian, once described by a coach as not knowing “how much talent she has,” proved Wednesday she is arriving as a force on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour.
All she did was dominate at the net as Wilkerson and Heather Bansley eliminated Finland’s Riikka Lehtonen and Niina Ahtiainen, 2-0 (21-19, 21-16), to reach the round of 16 at the Fort Lauderdale Major. Wilkerson had seven blocks in the match, and five in the second set when an up-for-grabs match was turned right around in moments.
“I’ve definitely seen it before, but I was very happy to see it again today,” Bansley said. “She did a great job closing out the match.”
The Canadians were even at 13-13 in the second set until Wilkerson broke the tie with a stuff block, sparking a 5-0 run. Wilkerson had two more blocks to put the match away.
If Wilkerson has put out the vibe that she might not be aware of how good she is, it’s because there appears to be a method to her madness. She’s leaving no stone unturned in her desire to improve and wants her game to become so well-rounded, she wants to leave her opponents guessing.
“I love being a student, I love learning, I set very high standards and I surround myself with people who expect a lot from me,” Wilkerson said. “I want to come to every game as a different player, as a different person, I don’t want people to catch up ever so maybe that will help. But yeah, there is a little confidence in my game now and a lot of room for learning.”
Bansley, a Rio 2016 Olympian, has played in only 12 tournaments with Wilkerson but has been comfortable with her from the start.
“She is an overly modest athlete and a really hard worker and competitor and I think she feels she has a lot to learn,” Bansley said. “She’s always eager to learn as an individual and as a team and that’s a great quality to have.”
Last summer, Wilkerson played in four AVP events on the American domestic tour and even reached the prestigious Manhattan Beach Open final with Nicole Branagh of the United States. Now Wilkerson and Bansley are on the verge of a major breakthrough. Clearly, Wilkerson is at home on American sand.
“A lot of it is the whole atmosphere here at the event, the setup, people love beach volleyball, they follow it, the fans are so passionate and I thrive off that energy,” Wilkerson said. “I am half American, so maybe that comes out too.”