Former Mariner on Team Canada

May 22nd, 2016

Last week, Smith, 26, a setter, was named to the 27-woman roster for the Team Canada Women's Senior A volleyball team - under head coach Arnd Ludwig - following a selection camp in Winnipeg on May 1-6.

Smith, who has been within the national team program since 2012, will be competing with Team Canada when they travel to the 2016 FIVB World Grand Prix in Poland June 3-5. The national team plays Poland, Puerto Rico and the Czech Republic. A week later, the team travels to the Czech Republic to play the Czech Republic, Dominican Republic and Bulgaria.

If Team Canada qualifies, they will then play at the World Grand Prix Group 2 final in Plovdiv, Bulgaria June 18-19.

Team Canada is also playing at the 2016 NORCECA Pan Am Cup June 30-July 11 in in Santo Domingo.

"It's really different. It's a different feeling kind of at the start of this new (quadrennial). We have a few returning players, but a lot of new faces and I'm in a position now where I'm a veteran player on the team, which is a completely different role than what I came into into in 2012," said Smith.

"There's still a good core of players around and that's definitely a very important part of building the program from one quad for four years leading up to the Olympic games to the next."

A stop not on this year's schedule for the national team is the 2016 Rio Olympics.

After finishing fourth at the NORCECA Championship last year, Team Canada then went 0-3 at the Women's NORCECA Olympic Qualifier in January and failed to qualify for the 2016 Olympics.

Smith said both she and the national team are hungrier than ever for the 2020 Olympics.

"I think these last four years made me realize just how possible (an Olympic berth) is, but the work has to start now preparing for the next one. It's a process and it takes everyone to be on the same page with that mentality to grow and move in that direction. Every summer you have to come back with that being the end goal, but focusing on the process along the way," said Smith.

Smith re-joins the national team after finishing the season as the only foreigner with a team in the Netherlands.

Prior to that, she also played volleyball in Germany. She said playing volleyball in Europe has given her a more "well-rounded perspective" of volleyball.

Only a couple years ago, Smith played suited up for five years with the Vancouver Island University Mariners women's volleyball team and was described by the CCAA as "the backbone of the Mariners' offence". Not only was she a two-time CCAA All-Canadian (2012, 2013), but she was also a first-team all-star when the Mariners captured the 2012 CCAA national title on home court.

Smith, who started playing volleyball at 13, has played more than a dozen international matches since joining the national program.

In 2013, Team Canada finished fourth at the NORCECA Women's Continental Championship in Nebraska, sixth at the 2013 FISU Games in Russia and seventh at the Pan Am Cup in Peru.

In 2014, the national team finished 17th at the FIVB World Championship in Italy, sixth at the Pan American Cup in Mexico City and first at the World Championship Qualifier in Mississauga, ON.

Last year, the national team did not qualify for the World Cup. The team did finish fifth at the Pan America Cup in Peru and eighth at the Pan Am Games in Toronto before the Olympic qualifier.

Smith said she has seen strides within herself as a player with the national team.

"I think it's just been more about mental growth. There's only so many balls you can set in the same situation all the time, but I found now that I have had some experiences playing oversees in Europe that my mental game has become so much stronger and the older I get, I guess, the smarter I feel I get with volleyball," said Smith.

"It's nice actually to get to that point where you can really enjoy playing, but where you can feel very confident in the execution of your skills and the rest just becomes strictly tactical."

Smith, who doesn't return home often, will be visiting Beaverlodge and Grande Prairie in late July to help with local volleyball camps.