FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour

Cincinnati Open | 17 - 21 May 2016


Press release

Canada’s Pavan/Bansley 3-0 in pool play; making ‘Rio’ noise at FIVB Cincinnati Open

Canada's Sarah Pavan, right, jousts at the net against USA's Brittany Hochevar as Pavan and teammate Heather Bansley continue to having 'Rio' good time with a 3-0 start at the FIVB Cincinnati Open, presented by AVP, in Mason, Ohio.

Mason, Ohio, USA, May 20, 2016 – About the only thing that has interrupted the run to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games for Canada’s Sarah Pavan and Heather Bansley was a toe injury to Pavan.

She might have acquired the ailment getting her foot in the door for Olympic qualification. But since that injury forced them to withdraw from the FIVB Rio Grand Slam in March, nothing has been done to derail them, since the Canadian duo had built up a rather stunning amount of qualifying points.

Quick links
FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Cincinatti Open
Men - Qualification results
Women - Qualification results
Men - Main draw results
Women - Main draw results

What’s next?

“Ultimately, our goal is to medal in Rio and we want to increase our ranking,” Bansley said Wednesday after they finished pool play undefeated at 3-0 in the FIVB Cincinnati Open, presented by the AVP. “Right now we’re improving as a team and getting better every day.”

They entered the tournament, their first since the Rio speed bump, ranked No. 5 in the world in the FIVB provisional Olympic Rankings. All that awaits after Cincinnati are the FIVB Moscow Grand Slam and the Swatch FIVB Hamburg Major, after which the final Olympic qualifications will be announced.

It’s easy to see why Pavan and Bansley are among the world’s best. At 6-foot-5, Pavan is one of the more intimidating forces at the net. All Bansley has done behind Pavan, a four-time All-America college player at Nebraska, is be named the FIVB’s Best Defender in 2015.

But it’s not only talent, it’s drive. They are a relatively new team on the circuit and with the help of coach Scott Davenport, they’ve set out to cover every possible angle to become one of the top teams.

“It’s a relationship and you have to know how to communicate with one another,” Bansley said. “You have to commit time to building a relationship and partnership. It’s communication as much as physical. Both Sarah and I have realized that and put in the work to do that. I’m fortunate to have a partner who recognizes the importance of having a strong team.

“I owe a lot to my coach and his planning of the four-year and cycle and leading into it and realizing it would take time for us to develop,” Bansley said. “Just this past year and the year before Sarah and I having a lot more time on the court together, with Sarah coming more to the beach and dedicating more time to the beach and being able to compete with a lot of high-level teams, increasing our level of training.”

No, as a matter of fact, it’s not a beach in Canada. They spent the offseason more or less living close to each other in Southern California; Davenport lives in Redondo Beach, Bansley rents there, and Pavan and her husband Adam live virtually next door in Hermosa Beach.

That means they roll out to the beach and are greeted by the top American players, not to mention the many European teams that escape their winter to train.

“We train against all the U.S. women’s teams and in the preseason there’s a lot of European teams that come over and it’s a hot spot for Beach Volleyball,” Bansley said. “We always have a really good group of training people. It’s good to have that variety and a good level.”

It’s fair to say they add to the level, even if they’re working out against the likes of Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross. After all, there might not be a more frustrating player to face on the FIVB World Tour than Bansley, who refuses to let the ball hit the sand on her side of the net.

It probably wasn’t a very difficult selection to make for Bansley’s FIVB defensive award.

“I was nominated last year and it was a really special honor,” she said. “There are so many great athletes on this tour and to be recognized among them is really special.”

While she admits that some of her ridiculous scrambling saves surprise even her, Pavan and Bansley continue to strive for improvement. It might be nice to look at video and say “Did I really do that?” but Bansley quickly lets the thought pass.

“Sometimes, yeah (I think that),” Bansley said with a laugh. “But usually I’m criticizing myself for every mistake I made to put myself in that situation.”

Yet Pavan and Bansley certainly can’t complain about the situation they’re in with the Olympics looming.

At the FIVB Cincinnati Open, presented by AVP, Canada’s Pavan/Bansley, seeded second in this tournament, have advanced to Friday’s second round, or the Round of 24 in FIVB’s first visit to the Queen City.

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