Friesen rep­re­sent­ing Canada at volleyball cham­pi­onship in Cuba

The Southwest Booster - - FRONT PAGE - SCOTT AN­DER­SON SOUTH­WEST BOOSTER

Swift Cur­rent’s Brae­don Friesen is cur­rently wear­ing the Cana­dian maple leaf at a pres­ti­gious volleyball tour­na­ment in Cuba.

Friesen has been se­lected as one of 12 play­ers on Canada’s Ju­nior Na­tional Team which is rep­re­sent­ing the country at the NORCECA U21 Men’s Con­ti­nen­tal Cham­pi­onship in Ha­vana, Cuba from Au­gust 27 to Septem­ber 1. Friesen is the lone Saskatchewan player on the ros­ter.

This has been a whirl­wind year for the prod­uct of the Swift Cur­rent Com­pre­hen­sive High School Colts volleyball pro­gram and the Ju­nior Sun­dogs Volleyball Club. He at­tended try­outs for the Ju­nior team back in May, and he was sub­se­quently one of 16 ath­letes se­lected to Canada’s Ju­nior Na­tional Men’s Team. He trained with the team un­til mid July, and spent only three and a half weeks at home be­fore turn­ing to the team’s train­ing fa­cil­ity in Gatineau, Que­bec to pre­pare for the tour­na­ment in Cuba.

“All that hard work paid off and I got to make the travel ros­ter to go to Cuba,” Friesen said dur­ing a phone in­ter­view be­fore head­ing to Cuba.

The 6’6’’ left side hit­ter knew the sum­mer train­ing process would be a dif­fi­cult road in or­der to be se­lected to the 12-player travel ros­ter for the Cuba tour­na­ment.

“We trained a lot, but it was def­i­nitely worth it in the end.”

Friesen said he was chal­lenged to im­prove his own game in or­der to make the team.

“It just im­proved my game a lot. I got a chance to work with some of the best coaches and staff in Canada, and just im­proved my skills and just be­came a bet­ter volleyball player.

“The big thing for me was my pass­ing. I was kind of strug­gling with it at the start, but as the weeks went on it got bet­ter and bet­ter, and now it’s look­ing much bet­ter.”

He added that train­ing for a higher level of com­pe­ti­tion also re­sulted in a tougher train­ing reg­i­men that he has pre­vi­ously ex­pe­ri­enced.

“It’s very dif­fer­ent. The way you train, you’ve got to take care of your body and make sure you’re eat­ing the right stuff. Where as pre­vi­ously I’d never re­ally trained for this long, so it was a bit of a change but I think I adapted pretty well to it.”

The NORCECA U21 Men’s Con­ti­nen­tal Cham­pi­onship is a qual­i­fy­ing event for the volleyball world cham­pi­onship in 2019, so there is a lot on the line for the Cana­di­ans at this event.

“We’ve got to win this tour­na­ment in or­der to qual­ify. That’s what our goal has kind of been all sum­mer, and we’re hop­ing to get the job done.”

The eight team tour­na­ment fea­tures an open­ing round of group play be­tween two pools of four teams. Canada is in Group B with Nicaragua, Haitia, and the United States. Group A boasts Bar­ba­dos, Gu­atemala, Do­mini­can Repub­lic and host Cuba.

Canada has one fi­nal group match to play. They opened with a three game vic­tory over Haiti (25-14, 25-17, 25-18) on Mon­day, and played Nicaragua yes­ter­day (re­sults not ava­ial­ble be­fore press dead­line). They close out group play against the United States to­day.

The gold medal and bronze medal games will be held on Satur­day, Septem­ber 1.

Cuba has won the U21 tour­na­ment a record five times, with the United States win­ning the event twice, with Canada claim­ing the cham­pi­onship twice. Dur­ing the 2016 event in Gatineau, USA up­ended Cuba by a 25-17, 2927, 19-25, 25-22 count.

Canada has earned medals at nine of the 10 U21 tour­na­ments. They boast gold medals in 1998 and 2002, they have cap­tured sil­ver in 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014, in ad­di­tion to bronze medal wins in 2006 and 2016.

Friesen noted that Canada boasts a rel­a­tively young ros­ter for this com­pe­ti­tion. The ma­jor­ity of the team is com­prised of ath­letes just com­ing out of high school, but they also boast some ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers who have com­pleted a year of univer­sity volleyball.

“We’re a pretty young team, but we’re very phys­i­cal.”

“We def­i­nitely don’t have a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence when it comes to these big games, these big tour­na­ments. But we’re a re­ally close knit group. We’ve been work­ing hard and I think we’ll do al­right.”

“It’ll def­i­nitely be a great ex­pe­ri­ence, and one that I’ll re­mem­ber for­ever.”

Friesen will join the Univer­sity of Al­berta Golden Bears for the 2018-2019 sea­son fol­low­ing his time with Canada’s Ju­nior Na­tional Team.

SOUTH­WEST BOOSTER FILE PHOTO

Swift Cur­rent’s Brae­don Friesen was se­lected to Canada’s Ju­nior Na­tional Volleyball Team af­ter com­plet­ing his se­nior sea­son with the SCCHS Colts Volleyball Team.

PHOTO COUR­TESY VOLLEYBALL CANADA

Cana­dian Ju­nior Na­tional Volleyball Team mem­ber Brae­don Friesen of Swift Cur­rent.

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