Bumped, not bummed

JIM BENDER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:45 AM ET

It doesn't seem like that long ago that Tammy Mahon was a fresh-faced recruit trying to crack a veteran-laden Team Canada women's volleyball squad.

"My first year, that team was more experienced and older," the Holland, Manitoba native recalled yesterday. "But girls like myself, Melissa (Raymond) and Anne (Levesque) are the more experienced players now."

Now Mahon and the others are expected to lead Team Canada in one of the outfit's most significant years since her first back in 2002. This is, after all, a qualifying year for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

"Next to an Olympic year when you are going to the Olympics, this is our most important year," said Mahon, 26. "You've got to go through this year to get to the Olympics. And come September (NORCECA championship), we can put ourselves into a good position to qualify."

Team Canada will first head to the Pan Am Cup in Colimo, Mexico, next week.

"This tournament will be good for us because it will show where our holes and weaknesses are," Mahon said. "You've got to get into competitions like this to see how you compare to the other teams in the world. And these are the teams we're going to have to beat to qualify."

Ranked 27th, Canada will be in a pool with No.2 Brazil, Cuba (No. 5), Peru (17), Puerto Rico (19) and Uruguay (31) in the preliminary round.

"The other teams are usually bigger, taller and powerful and we always feel that we have to do more against them," Mahon said. "It's always like we're trying to play catch-up."

The squad did get a big boost this week when left side hitter Stacey Gordon joined the squad after finishing her pro season in Turkey.

"She brings a whole new level of intensity to the rest of the team just by walking on to the court at practice," Mahon said. "She brings a lot to the team both on and off the court."

'DON'T MIND'

Mahon plays the same position so she will be relegated to backup status while Gordon is with the team.

"You don't mind sitting behind a player of her calibre," Mahon reasoned. "You do what you can for the team and you never know when injuries can happen."

Mahon, who played pro in the Netherlands the past three years, is feeling better than ever before as she hopes to qualify for her first Olympics.

"I'm as healthy as I ever was," she said. "Right now, I'm at my best and most consistent. At 26, you do have some experience but I still have a lot to learn."

While Mahon has seen many of the players call it quits since she started, she is focused on qualifying for the Olympics, not life beyond spikes and kills.

"Next year depends on this year," Mahon said. "But I think I still have a few years left, especially on the pro circuit."

Dauphin's Stephanie Penner, who will also make the trip, has been alternating at setter with Larissa Cundy.


Videos

Photos