There is a first time for everything. That includes Nunavut playing beach volleyball at the Canada Summer Games for the first time.
What’s also a first is Nunavut winning a match in beach volleyball at the Canada Summer Games. That happened on Monday afternoon.
Shawna Kyak of Iqaluit and Talia Grant of Rankin Inlet became the first pairing from the territory to claim a win in the sand version of the sport at the big show thanks to a 2-0, straight-sets win over Yukon. Nunavut News caught up with Kyak minutes after the victory and, needless to say, she was still trying to process it.
“I don’t know know to feel,” she said excitedly. “We’ve trained so hard for this and worked so hard to get here and this is something we wanted.”
It was the unofficial championship of the North per se; the NWT doesn’t have a women’s team entered. That meant this was the battle for Northern supremacy. It’s also not the first time Nunavut has had teams in beach volleyball — the 2019 Western Canada Summer Games was the very first time the territory played at either the regional or national level and came away with a seventh-place finish overall, which included three wins over Yukon teams.
The ladies had played Prince Edward Island in their first contest on Sunday and lost in straight sets in what could only be described as an oven. The humidity made it feel more like 40 C on the sand, but the conditions were a bit better on Monday.
“It rained in the morning before we played, so that made it a bit cooler,” said Kyak. “It got warmer, but it was really windy. We knew it would get hotter, so we made sure we kept drinking lots of water, staying hydrated as best we could.”
Playing outdoors can be tricky for beach volleyball players as the elements play a factor, including the wind. The ladies began training for the Games in Halifax, followed by camps in Kelowna and Kamloops, B.C., and Kyak said being in Halifax helped a lot.
“You have to anticipate where the ball is going to go,” she said. “Being able to practice with the wind gives you an idea on how to play.”
That anticipation extends into how to play every shot in general, she added.
“You’re out there making adjustments all the time because every player is different,” she said. “Communication is really important and Talia and I are always making sure we signal who to serve to, who to block, all of that.”
The ladies will have one more game on Tuesday morning at 11:30 EDT versus Newfoundland and Labrador, which will determine who they play next.
Kyak said she’s enjoying the experience so far and hopes the winning continues.
“It’s such an amazing feeling to represent Nunavut as part of the first beach volleyball teams and I love where I live,” she said. “We wanted to get the win over Yukon, we did that, and now we’re looking ahead for more.”