Olympian Heather Bansley and partner Brandie Wilkerson are off to a winning start at the Swatch Beach Volleyball FIVB World Tour Finals in Toronto.
The Canadians defeated the Italian team of Laura Giombini and Marta Menegatti 2-0 (21-14, 21-12) on Wednesday. Bansley and Wilkerson qualified for the tournament after defeating fellow Canadians Sarah Pavan – Bansley’s partner at Rio 2016 – and Melissa Humana-Paredes on Tuesday.
“It was fun. It was a great environment and it’s nice to be home,” said Bansley. “I’m really glad with how we were able to come back down and focus on the rest of the tournament. We still have matches ahead. To come out strong like we did today was great.
“I think there was a lot of pressure on (Tuesday’s) game. It doesn’t take away from the fact that we’ve still come here to win. We want to win every game that we’re playing,” added Bansley.
Bansley and Wilkerson had a fairly easy win in the opening set, taking it 21-14. The second set remained close until the halfway point when Canada started to pull away, going on to win 21-12.
The team, seeded fourth at the tournament, could be heard speaking to one another throughout the match.
“I think Brandie and I are both very competitive,” said Bansley. “Because we are a new team we have to keep the communication going and I think that’s helping us staying in focus, stay in the moment, play for every point and focus on things about our opponent.”
Wilkerson, 24, credits her veteran partner for the team’s early success.
“She has been the leader on this team and has been able to take charge while I’m still trying to figure my way out. When I do catch up, I think we kind of just flow together and figure it all out.”
Bansley and Wilkerson return to action on Thursday evening against Chantel Laboureur and Julie Sude of Germany.
Binstock/Schachter fall to Americans
Binstock and Schachter, who competed together in Rio, won an entertaining opening set 21-16. After losing the second set 21-16, the Americans took an early lead in the third and never looked back, winning 15-9.
The Canadians play again on Friday against Poland’s Piotr Kantor and Bartosz Losiak.
Broder/Valjas lose in straight sets
Jamie Broder and Kristina Valjas, Canada’s second women’s team competing in Toronto, dropped their opening match of the tournament on Wednesday, falling 2-0 (21-11, 21-18) to Brazilian’s Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca.
Broder and Valjas, who were eliminated by Bansley and Pavan in the round of 16 in Rio, are seeded 11th at the tournament while the Brazilians are third.
The Canadians are back in action on Thursday afternoon when they take on Elsa Baquerizo and Liliana Fernandez of Spain.