This summer promises to be one of packing, unpacking and whirlwind travel for Roberts Creek’s Kyla Richey.
Two weeks ago, Richey helped lead Team Canada to a world championship berth in Italy this September after Canada won the NORCECA Women’s World Championship qualification tournament at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga, Ont.
Team Canada beat Jamaica 3-0, Mexico 3-1 and the U.S. Virgin Islands 3-0 in round robin play, and then squared off with Mexico in the championship final, where they rolled to a 3-0 win. Richey led the way with 14 points (12 attacks and two blocks) in the championship victory.
“We put in so much effort, and we haven’t had much time together because we’ve all just come back from our pro season,” Richey said. “We worked so hard in the last two-and-a-half weeks we had together. It’s so great to have our ticket to Italy.”
Richey, who was back on the Coast last week for a little rest and time with her family — and to do some laundry — sat down with Coast Reporter to recap the past few months which took her to Turkey and her second pro experience.
In 2012/13 she had a successful first pro experience in Germany. This time she wanted to step it up a notch. She said Turkey “is the next level” when it comes to professional volleyball in Europe.
“In Germany the playing field was pretty level — anyone could beat anyone at a given time, but in Turkey teams are just that much more competitive,” she said. “There is lots of money going to these clubs and they bring in the top players in the world. I talked with several of the guys I know on the men’s national team and they all said that if I was going to go to Turkey and see if I could stack up, that now was the time.”
Her home city was just outside Istanbul playing with a team called Yesilyurt. She was one of only two foreign players on the team (the other was from Hungary), which proved challenging in the beginning trying to integrate with the team.
“I was pretty nervous in the beginning,” Richey said. “You have to gel together quickly in order to make this work, or else you are isolated from the other girls and it can be really taxing emotionally,” Richey said. “But the girls were great. The city I was living in was fantastic. Great people. I got to play tourist every day, which really helped me away from the court.”
The season started in October and the team struggled, but started to turn things around after a short Christmas break.
Finishing in the top eight was the goal and after the Christmas break the team went on a run, knocking off the fifth, sixth and seventh-place teams. A top four finish was in sight, but then some internal strife with management and coaching sent the team on a bit of a tailspin and they finished in eighth.
“That was so frustrating. We were working really hard, but then the wheels fell off,” she said. “Dealing with all the politics and the behind the scenes stuff was pretty crazy, and that was just too much for us.”
Yesilyurt went up against the top team in the first round of the playoffs and was knocked out. But despite how the season finished up, Richey said she wouldn’t have changed the experience for anything.
“You have no idea what you are in for until you get there,” she said. “I’m glad and thankful for the experience. I know that I can play in this league. I had lots of family and friends who came over and visited me, so that helped a lot, and as I said before, all of the girls were great. We formed a really tight bond together.”
Following the pro season, Richey came back home for a short break before heading to Winnipeg at the end of April to start training with the national team.
She said the training was intense, but that intensity paid off with the team’s fantastic play only weeks later.
“We should have won all four matches, and we did, but Mexico is always tough. They are a young, scrappy team,” she said. “We worked really hard at training camp and we had a great tournament because of that.”
This will mark Richey’s second trip to the world championships as a member of Team Canada. The first was in 2010 in Japan when she came off the bench to play some quality minutes. That team had more experience than this year’s team, but what the team might lack in experience, they make up for in grit, determination and intensity, Richey said.
“Looking back at 2010 we were stacked with some great players. This year’s team might not look as star-studded, but we have a no BS attitude — it’s just put your head down and work your ass off,” she said. “It’s a really good, healthy feeling, and I love this team and what we are capable of.”
Richey is back in Winnipeg now preparing for the Pan Am Cup, which will be held in mid-June in Mexico. There will be a short break after that, then back to Winnipeg to begin preparations for the Grand Prix tournament in late July and August in Argentina, Belgium, Peru and possible finals in Poland.
After that there will be a couple of weeks off, and then it’s on to Italy for the world championships in September.
“For me now, living out of suitcase and travelling all over the place is normal,” Richey said. “It’s the life and I love it. The support I have from family and friends is awesome. To be globe-trotting like this and playing the sport that I love is a dream come true.”
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