Clarenville duo has worked hard to get province into beach volleyball quarter-finals in Winnipeg
There was a beach volleyball game in Winnipeg Tuesday, between Newfoundland the Yukon. Bet you never thought you’d read those words.
Marcus Baker and Brent Wareham of Clarenville are representing Newfoundland and Labrador in men’s beach volleyball at the 2017 Canada Summer Games (there’s no women’s team from the province), where they have a 3-2 record and will play in cross-over quarter-finals tonight.
Well, you can imagine, we’re used to playing in heavy winds (back home), and if it’s 10 degrees, we’re lucky. Yesterday, it was 31 (in Winnipeg) and felt like 39. But we’re drinking lots of water and staying inside a lot. It’s difficult coming up here and trying to play a lot, but don’t get me wrong, we’re not complaining. We’re having a great time, too.
In the preliminary round, Baker and Wareham posted wins over New Brunswick, the Yukon and Saskatchewan, with losses to Manitoba and Ontario.
The two are volleyball veterans, having played with the Memorial Sea-Hawks last season — in what would turn out to be Memorial’s last year in Atlantic intercollegiate play — and having won Newfoundland and Labrador Volleyball Association awards.
Baker, 18, was the 2015-16 NLVA senior player of the year, while the 19-year-old Wareham was the 2013 provincial junior player of the year.
The Clarenville High graduates have been playing volleyball for years, since Grade 4 actually, and both admit there’s a definite difference — aside from the obvious — between the indoor game and beach game.
“Completely different,” Baker said. “Two different games.”
As Wareham explains it, regular indoor volleyball has six players on the court, “where you concentrate on your position, focus on one skill primarily.
“Whereas if you’re playing beach volleyball, there are only two of you on the court and someone is going to touch the ball every single time. Every skill, from serve-receive, setting and hitting to blocking and defending, is required. So you pretty much need to know all the skills of an indoor player, and you need to be good at all of them at once.
“If you’re bad at any of them, it’s really noticeable and it’s a huge disadvantage.”
“You have two people pretty much trying to do the job of six,” Baker added.
The courts at the Sargent Park Recreation Complex in Winnipeg have been constructed for the Games with trucked-in sand as fine as what you’d find on a beach in a sunny locale.
They’re located inside what is used as an outdoor speed skating oval during the winter, and adjacent to the Cindy Klassen Recreation Complex.
(As an aside, Winnipeg’s Klassen, the first Canadian to win five medals in one Olympics, was in Corner Brook for the 1999 Canada Winter Games, but didn’t get to skate. That’s because the outdoor oval in Pasadena wound up melting.)
There are not a whole lot of beaches around Clarenville, but Baker and Wareham have had the opportunity to practise on courts at the Elizabeth Swan Park.
Clarenville won $25,000 five years ago from the TSN/Kraft Celebration Tour Challenge, and some of the money went into upgrading the volleyball courts.
“The nets and court area are really nice,” Baker said, “but when it comes to sand, we’re not even talking close to what we play on up here.“
So when we come from Newfoundland and Clarenville, we find it really hard to move and jump in this sand. Whereas all our opponents are used to playing in stuff like this.”
“The courts home are really rocky,” Wareham added. “We’re always picking up rocks. There’s not a lot of diving, because you usually end up with a couple of scrapes.”
The duo, however, are enjoying their time in Winnipeg, even if the Games are played in the conditions you’d find in Florida or Southern California.
Sunday and Monday, temperatures soared to 30-plus degrees, forcing organizers to water down the sand, which was in some cases too hot for the athletes.
“Well, you can imagine,” said Baker, “we’re used to playing in heavy winds, and if it’s 10 degrees, we’re lucky.
One of Newfoundland’s three wins in beach volleyball came Tuesday over the Yukon. Robin Short/The Telegram
“Yesterday, it was 31 and felt like 39. But we’re drinking lots of water and staying inside a lot. It’s difficult coming up here and trying to play a lot, but don’t get me wrong, we’re not complaining. We’re having a great time, too.”