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Canadian beach volleyball pair of Melissa Humana-Paredes, Taylor Pischke: a successful partnership

Canadian beach volleyball pair of Melissa Humana-Paredes, Taylor Pischke: a successful partnership

Posted by PanamericanWorld on July 16, 2015

Theirs was an arranged marriage, a relationship that was more practical than organic.

Taylor Pischke is the daughter of Garth Pischke, a two-time Olympian as a player, a long-time coach of the national team and the most decorated coach in Canadian university history. She played indoor volleyball for a few years, like her father and brother before her, but her heart was always out on the sand.

“I have so much more responsibility and control over what happens,” Pischke said. “I love that. You have to develop every single skill because there’s no (substitutes). There’s nowhere to hide on the beach.”

Melissa Humana-Paredes is the daughter of Chilean Hernan Humana, best known in these parts as coaching the duo of John Child and Mark Heese to a bronze medal in beach volleyball’s inaugural Olympic appearance, in Atlanta in 1996. Pischke wanted to break into the beach volleyball scene, and they both needed partners. At 5-foot-9 with good instincts, Humana-Paredes was a natural scrambling defender. Pischke, at an even 6-feet, was dynamite at the net.

Still, there was the small matter of them, you know, working well together and liking each other. Humana-Paredes won a silver medal with Victoria Altomare at the junior world championships in Halifax in 2011, but the partnership did not last. Pischke felt like she needed to impress her more experienced teammate right away.

Taylor Pischke is the daughter of Garth Pischke, a two-time Olympian as a player, a long-time coach of the national team and the most decorated coach in Canadian university history.

“It was kind of like a blind date,” Humana-Paredes said. “We met for the first time. We practised once, played a tournament and won it. So we were like,

‘OK, let’s do this.’”

Melissa Humana-Paredes spikes the ball during a game against Puerto Rico. Tyler Anderson / National Post

“She made me feel comfortable right away,” Pischke said. “Playing with her raised my level of play.”

That decision has produced perhaps Canada’s best bet at a successful woman’s beach volleyball team for the long-term. The pair won their second straight match at the Pan Am Games, 21-16, 21-16 over the Puerto Rican team on Tuesday. They are both 22, and the favourite to capture gold here, with most of the top teams in the world competing in Switzerland over the weekend.

The short-term picture is a bit more complicated, as Canada finds itself in a boom period for women’s teams. Sarah Pavan and Heather Bansley, who are having a very good year on tour, are currently ranked second in the world, and finished third in the Swiss tournament. They will be 30 and 29, respectively, heading to Rio. Jamie Lynn Broder and Kristina Valjas are ranked sixth in the world, but will be 31 and 29 by the time next year rolls around. Likely, it will be their last opportunities to be Olympians.

Accordingly, unless they can take a big leap in form over the next year, the 2020 Games in Tokyo might be the most likely site for the Olympic debut of Humana-Paredes and Pischke. Canada gets two spots in both the men’s and women’s draws.

Still, there is a chance. The pair just finished ninth at the world championships in Netherlands. The process that determines the Olympic berths is complicated, a combination of points accumulated and world rankings. However, if they can push themselves up another level, it is a possibility. And youth is on their side.

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