Pan Am beach volleyball medal eludes Canada's Pischke, Humana-Paredes
TORONTO — Athletes try not to think about medals while they're in the throes of competition, but Taylor Pischke and Melissa Humana-Paredes couldn't help themselves.
They so wanted to win Canada's first women's beach volleyball medal at a Pan American Games, in front of crowd that so wanted them to win one as well.
The Canadians played fearful of making mistakes instead of fearless in Wednesday's bronze-medal match. They were swept in 40 minutes in straight sets by Brazil's Carolina Horta and Liliane Maestrini.
Winnipeg's Pischke and Toronto's Humana-Paredes, both 22, drew a fervent following at these Pan Ams going 3-0 through the preliminary round and winning their quarter-final all in straight sets. They played creative and tenacious ball in three-set, semifinal loss to Cuba.
But their 21-9, 21-14 humbling by the fifth-ranked Brazilian team on the women's world beach tour was a reminder there's more international seasoning required before they reach their full potential.
"We came out tentative," Humana-Paredes said. "Not scared. We were careful not to make mistakes and I think that's the wrong mentality. We definitely learned that taking risks is huge, whether you make a mistake or not.
"It's these losses when you learn so much. This one hurts the most. That's why we're going to learn from it."
Argentina's Ana Gallay and Georgina Klug prevailed in three sets (21-17, 19-21, 15-7) over Cubans Lianma Flores and Leila Martinez for gold.
Humana-Paredes stood at centre court and thanked the full house at the Chevrolet Beach Volleyball Centre after their loss, while Pischke stood beside the stands wrestling with her emotions.
In trying to paint the court's corners and sidelines on the attack, Pischke was long or wide on several attempted kills.
"I never really felt like I was in the match today or really comfortable," she said. "It was windy so I never felt like I was in control of the ball.
"Despite the game, it was so much fun playing in front of the fans. Their support means the world and I'm going to probably start crying," she continued and then required a few moments to compose herself.
"In a couple days I'll look back and be proud of how we played throughout this whole tournament despite this last game."
Humana-Paredes and Pischke have a bright future and come from volleyball and athletic lineage. Humana-Paredes' father Hernan Humana coached Canada's John Child and Mark Heese to Olympic bronze in 1996. Her mother Myriam was a Chilean ballerina.
Pischke's father Garth was a two-time Olympian for Canada's indoor men's team in 1976 and 1984. Her mother Cindy played for the national junior team.
Humana-Paredes is the acrobatic digger who was named the FIVB's female rookie of the year in 2014. The six-foot Pischke is a powerful and deft finisher at the net. They won bronze at the world under-23 championships in both 2014 and 2013.
Next year's Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro is their goal, but they've got stiff competition domestically to get there. Canada can't take more than two women's beach volleyball teams to Rio.
Heather Bansley of Waterdown, Ont., and Sarah Pavan of Kitchener, Ont., currently rank second on the women's World Tour. Victoria's Jamie Broder and Toronto's Kristina Valjas are No. 6. Pischke and Humana-Paredes are ranked 17th.
"We've been trying to qualify for 2016 this whole summer," Humana-Paredes said. "We're well on our way. We just have to beat out another Canadian team. It's going to be a dogfight, it's going to be a battle, but every Olympic run is going to be a battle."
Josh Binstock and Sam Schachter of Richmond Hill, Ont., pulled out of their seventh-place match against Puerto Rico on Wednesday. Schachter has a back injury and doctors recommended he not play, according to a Volleyball Canada spokeswoman.
The Canadian Press