"You can do three things in the summer," said Dinos volleyball captain Amanda Moppett. "You can do absolutely nothing, you can play court like the girls on the national team did, or you can play beach. Being short and all, we played beach."
Moppett and Canadian Interuniversity Sport Player of the Year Alisa Marriott joined forces this summer to dominate the beach. The two Dinos were tanned from months spent outdoors and both had big smiles on their faces. Any hint of dejection from their springtime defeat at the national tourney was gone. Both were quick to flash a grin as they exchanged knowing glances at the avalanche of questions that came their way about their summertime adventures.
They spent a busy couple of months playing beach volleyball. A second place finish in Alberta, second at AA Nationals and seventh at AAA Nationals gave them plenty to talk about.
"We started talking about playing during the [Dinos'] season," said Moppett. "We played against each other two seasons ago."
"We knew we could go further with other partners," added Marriott, knowing that together, the pair was capable of more.
The stage was set for beach dominance when neither Dino earned an invite to try out for the Canadian National Team. While teammates Krista Kinsman and Tracy Keats were in Winnipeg for training camp, Moppett and Marriott hit the AA Alberta beach circuit.
"After the season, we thought, let's just rip it up on the beach," said Moppett. "It was awesome. Beach. You walk out in the sun, you're sun bathing, you're in your swimsuit..."
"That's what you're trying to look like," laughed Marriott at her teammates' relaxed attitude. "But little do these girls know that I'm ready to kick some ass."
Tournaments in Calgary, Edmonton and Sylvan Lake left fond memories for the twosome.
"We did excellent, especially considering we didn't practice once," smiled Marriott.
"We met up every weekend, we'd play and we'd do really well," added Moppett. "Then we wouldn't train all week."
The pair finished second in Alberta AA ball which gave them a berth at the National AA Championships. There was a berth, but there was no funding. The top Alberta team got $1,000 to compete in Ontario while our heroes were left disappointed and underfunded.
Fortunately, some last minute string-pulling resulted in help from Dinos coaches Kevin Boyles and Chris Hamilton helped fund the trip to Ontario. And that's where the fun really began.
"We were a little nervous at first," said Moppett. "There were a lot of teams we'd never seen.
"We didn't do too well in the first game," she admitted. "But we ended up going undefeated in the playoffs until the final game."
In the AA finals, the pair faced off against Ontario. They won game one, but then the skies opened up. The downpour became a daunting challenge that rendered Moppett's deadly jump serve ineffective. The Ontario team started serving underhand and managed to pull out game two.
The third and deciding set was tight. Tied 13-13, Ontario seemed to send a ball long.
"The ball's going out, wind blows it and it touches the line," said Moppett with a hint of disbelief.
"I was so shocked," added Marriott. "We were all ready to celebrate."
They lost the final set and had to settle for second. Fortunately, the top four AA teams advance to AAA Nationals.
"We got to play against these whiny attitude pro girls," said Marriott.
"Pro AAA girls in Canada--all it means is that they have enough money--doesn't necessarily mean they're always good," mused Moppett.
First up was a team from Quebec.
"We beat them two straight," laughed Marriott. "They didn't even shake our hands."
"We were on a total high," said Moppett. "Then we played the first-ranked team in Canada."
"They were pretty good," smiled Marriott. "We played pretty bad..."
"They were awesome," admitted Moppett. "They're obviously a level above us."
The Calgary duo finished seventh in a field of 20. The conclusion?
"We did awesome and we didn't train one bit," said Moppett. "We just went out there and played. It was a real eye opener to what we can accomplish with a bit of money and training."
With their solid showing at Nationals and their young age, the duo looks set for prolonged beach success.
"The other girls were 34 or 35," mused Marriott. "We're just babies."
Next year the pair plans to play AAA only, which means they will play nationally, not just in the province of Alberta. As the travel costs will grow, so too will the need for sponsors.
"There was a lot of interest," admitted Marriott. "If we were better organized it would be great. It also helps to be good when you ask for money."
Next up for the tandem is the 2001/02 CIS season. The Dinos have one of the strongest squads in the country, and their goals are accordingly high.
"I really want to win a national championship in my last year," said Marriott, who is entering her fifth year of CIS eligibility. "We know we're going to be good, but we're not going to start planning our party just yet."
"We learned a little bit of a lesson from last year," smiled Moppett. "We had two girls on the national team and that's awesome. They're gonna make our team really good. Plus, we have these two cute little beach girls and we did pretty good too."