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Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Sandy Summer Recap

You may recognize the name Gabe Burlacu from an earlier post of ours introducing him and partner Greg Simone to Team Infinit. Since then, some things have change and we are happy to be supporting Gabe and Greg on their new ventures and new beach partnerships. Today we asked Gabe to write something for our blog - a recap so to say of Sergey and his recent, and very successful beach volleyball tournaments.

"Sergey and I got our partnership off to a flying start. We travelled the West Coast of Canada and the US for 3 weeks; Vancouver, California, and Kelowna. We played a tournament at location and had great showings at each tournament finishing 4th, 1st, and 3rd respectively.

On July 7th, we left Toronto to head for Vancouver, knowing that we would be gone for three weeks, we had a lot to pack, and not a lot of room. As volleyball players we need to pack our own volleyballs and those take up a lot of space, especially when you have to bring more than one. First things first though, Sergey and I had our Infinit supplements ready to be packed before anything. One bag each, Sergey took our custom blend and I took the repair.

Arriving there a few days before the 2015 Vancouver Clearly Pro Open, we had some time to ourselves to get familiar with the venue and the beach itself which really paid off during the tournament because the wind was side-wind instead of front to back (what we are used to in Ontario). We set a goal to really take care of our bodies, and the little things throughout the trip; being fully hydrated, rested, and always having snacks around us to keep us going.

We practiced a few times before the qualifier started on Friday, where we spent nearly all day at the beach supporting our friends that were playing in it. We were drinking our blend to make sure that our bodies are prepared for the amount of games we would have to play the next day. We had a good laugh because everyone kept staring at us and asking us what we are drinking and putting into our water, so a fair share of the Vancouver friends we made there tried the blend and were intrigued by the effects, and nutritional facts it had.

Our day started on Saturday, July 10th. We were seeded 10th (we weren’t too happy with that) but nonetheless, we came to play volleyball not pout about seeding. The tournament was a double elimination format, meaning you have to lose two matches and then you are eliminated. Our Round One match up wasn’t as easy as we hoped, and a Vancouver team gave us a little scare but we were able to get passed them with the scores of 22-20, 21-17. Our Second Round match was definitely a harder one as it was against National Team Member and National Team Full-Carded Athlete Mike Plantinga and partner (not his regular). Sergey and I had a good game plan going into this game and felt comfortable with the courts and the venue by this point, and we also got the first round jitters out of the way. We defeated Plantinga/Irey (seed 9) by the scores of 21-16, 26-24.

So on to Round 3 of the winners bracket. Here we were drawn against a very strong team from B.C. Alex Russell/Jared Krause who were seeded #3, and also last years Finalists. Sergey and I have never played them, nor did we get a chance to watch them play because we were playing at the same time. As the game progressed, we stopped thinking about the outcome of the game, and just slowly got into the “zone” and just played…played beach volleyball at a very high level, eventually knocking them into the losers bracket by defeating them in straight sets, 21-16, and 21-19.

Sergey played on a whole other level, it was like he was in 6th gear when he was chasing down shots…all match long. It was great, I felt like if a ball got my past my block, Sergey was there no matter what, and we would be able to make a play on the ball. The crowd was definitely impressed by our play, and by our friendliness. Even though we beat the hometown favorites, they congratulated us.

Now, Round 4 of the Winner’s bracket…win this game, and we are directly into the semi finals. Lose this game, and we have to play one final game in the Loser’s bracket tomorrow to get into the semi finals. We are matched up against #2 seed, Christian Redmann/Felipe Humana-Parades. A strong team that represents Canada on the International level. We started off point for point, but then they managed to build a lead and hold us off at the end, taking the first set 16-21. The second set was the same story, point for point at the start, until they broke away with a few points in a row. Unfortunately throughout that run, Christian and I were fighting for a ball at the net, and I landed and sprained my ankle and was unable to continue the match, so we had to forfeit.

Now Sunday, our quarter final of the Loser’s bracket…again we matched up against Plantinga/Irey who made their way through the entire loser’s bracket to reach the last match before Medal Rounds. Unaware of my sprained ankle, they served Sergey the entire match as they did the first time we played them. We won this game more comfortably than the first time. Straight set victory, putting us into the Medal Rounds!

In the semi, we were drawn against O’Gorman/Pedlow, the #1 seed. They represent Canada at almost every FIVB Event. We came out short, and low on energy as I was being served and struggling with my side out. They took the first set…11-21. The second set was a completely different story, as Sergey and I came to life. My sideout was very good, and Sergey’s defense was a joy to behold. After leading the entire set, a few costly mistakes, and a missed serve cost us the second set…19-21.

The Bronze Medal match was a great match, in an amazing atmosphere on center court. We played Russell/Krause, who also made it back to the medal rounds through the loser’s bracket. However this time around, they took the game 21-18, 21-18 in straight sets. Some bad luck, and obviously an injury, but Sergey and I can’t complain. We had a blast.

On July 13th, we flew out to California, ready to compete in the USA High Performance Championships. We were excited to play some international teams, and see what kind of volleyball other countries are producing. We were entered into the tournament last minute due to some registration difficulties, and as a result were put into the hardest pool. We were up against a Hawaiian team, and two American teams that have represented the States on the international level at age group World Championships, and NORCECA events.

We found it difficult to adjust to the beaches in Hermosa as the sand is very fine and deep. Luckily we had a day off, and then one day to practice until the tournament started on Wednesday. We took care of business in pool play by going 3-0, and not dropping a single set to any of the teams. This gave us a Bye to the quarterfinals. Just our luck, another American team that represented them in several World Championship events. But again, Sergey and I took care of business and eliminated what was considered to be the strongest team in the tournament, again winning 2-0 with one of the sets going the distance 27-25.

The semifinals were against a neighboring team from Michigan! I didn’t even know they played volleyball in Michigan…but these guys weren’t bad. They had an unusual style of play which gave us some trouble…but we figured it out without any problems, and took the match 2-0.

So Sergey and I are headed to our first finals, against yet another team that has played at age group World Championships. This was definitely our biggest challenge and we stepped up to it, and took care of business in three sets, dropping our only set of the tournament. We walked away with the gold medal! Not bad for our second tournament, and a sprained ankle.

After the tournament, we had a full week in Hermosa Beach to relax and train until we headed off to Centre of Gravity in Kelowna. The week was spent practicing hard, taking care of our bodies and rehabbing my ankle.

July 27th we were off to Kelowna. Ready to compete in shallow sand after ten days in the fine, deep sand of Hermosa.After a strong start to the tournament we found ourselves playing once again in the Quarter Finals against familiar faces, Russell/Krause…Sergey and I really came prepared for this game as we were seeking revenge, and we came out firing the entire match winning 2-0, 21-14, 21-17. The semi finals saw us take on Plantinga/Whelan, National Team members that have won several medals together on the NORCECA Tour. Unfortunately after a very well played game of beach volleyball, we just came short losing 2-0, with both sets being very close."

Congrats Gabe and Sergey! We see great potential in you guys and are excited to follow you through the rest of the season! Stay tuned to our blog and social media for updates on the pair. 

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