Friesen representing Canada at volleyball championship in Cuba
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.
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.
Canadian Junior National Volleyball Team member Braedon Friesen of Swift Current.