Colby Nemeth (left) and Josh Gagnon are on the cusp of representing Canada on the international stage. (Contributed Photo)

Colby Nemeth (left) and Josh Gagnon are on the cusp of representing Canada on the international stage. (Contributed Photo)

Red Deer beach volleyball players on the cusp of trip to U21 Worlds

Josh Gagnon and Colby Nemeth will be refreshing their emails non-stop over the next week or so.

The Red Deer beach volleyball duo is on the cusp of an opportunity of a lifetime. Earlier this week, the two were named Canada’s second team for the U21 World Championships in Roi Et, Thailand in September.

“It feels pretty great. You work really hard and it pays off eventually. It’s really exciting to be able to rank yourself really,” said Gagnon.

It’s not 100 per cent guaranteed that the duo will be able to compete in Thailand quite yet. Volleyball Canada is working to get a second entry in the event and if they do, Gagnon and Nemeth will be booking plane tickets.

“The U19 and U21 FIVB Beach World Championships provide an excellent opportunity for Canadian beach athletes to gain valuable international experience against some of the best beach athletes in the world,” said Ed Drakich, Volleyball Canada director of beach high performance in a release.

The journey to even get to this point, as now the second-ranked U21 beach volleyball team in Canada is a unique one in its own right.

First off, the pair haven’t played competitively together since 2018, when they competed at Nationals in Toronto. To be considered for the U21 Canadian beach team, they had to submit an application that included stats, accolades, a short bio, and also game film. One problem, they hadn’t played a game in a few years.

So they grabbed a video camera, a net, a ball and a few Team Alberta friends and filmed a few matches in Sylvan Lake.

“It was pretty funny, we obviously explained the circumstance,” Gagnon said. “It was optional for the film but we wanted to kinda put a good foot forward and show a little bit about how we play. Good plays we make, how we recover from mistakes because that’s stuff you don’t get from testing numbers.”

It also helped that National Team Next Gen coach Adriana Bento worked with Nemeth and Gagnon when they were in Toronto a few years back.

“We were lucky because back in U16 for Team Alberta when we went out to Toronto to train for a week, we trained with her. So she knew who we were and had coached us for a little bit,” Gagnon said.

If the two don’t get a chance to go to Thailand, they’ll be playing volleyball in the same province come September anyway.

Both teens are in their second seasons at their respective universities, with Gagnon attending the University of Fraser Valley and Nemeth at Trinity Western University – both U Sports Canada West schools. Although neither got to play last season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they’re both looking forward to finally getting back on the court.

“I’m very excited, can’t wait to go,” Gagnon said.

In the meantime, along with Nemeth, the two will be anxiously awaiting an email notification from Volleyball Canada.

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