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Volleyball player focuses on helping Canada to Olympic qualifiers.

WINNIPEG

Following a major disappointment at her most recent competition, Jaimie Thibeault is looking forward to her next volleyball excursions.

The 25-year-old, who was born in Grande Prairie, is a member of the Canadian women's volleyball squad. The club only managed to win one of its four matches at the Pan American Games, which were held in July in Toronto and surrounding communities.

Thibeault, a member of the T'Sou-ke Nation (Coast Salish), and her teammates ended up finishing eighth in the eight-team tournament.

"That was a tough one," she said. "We just got back from two months of being out on the road."

Prior to the Pan American Games, the Canadians participated in tournaments in Cuba, Peru, Puerto Rico and Argentina.

Though her side did not get the results it would have preferred, Thibeault was still pleased she was able to be part of the games.

"The experience volleyball-wise was amazing in terms of the crowd," she said. "And the (athletes) village was amazing. And all the volunteers were amazing."

After spending the first few years of her life in Grande Prairie, Thibeault moved to Sylvan Lake, in central Alberta. But she now spends most of her summers in Winnipeg, where the national squad trains.

Thibeault and her teammates are now gearing up for an international tournament in Mexico in late September. The top four finishers from that event advance to an Olympic qualifier this coming January.

Because of her national team duties, Thibeault was late reporting to her new professional team in Europe, which began its training camp in late August. The first league game is Oct. 18.

Thibeault, who graduated from the University of Montana in 2011, is entering her fourth year in the pro ranks.

She started off with a team in France before spending a season in Italy. And this past year she played for a club in Poland.

As for this season, she'll be returning to Italy. She has inked a deal to suit up for Unendo Yamamay Butso Arsizio, one of the top women's teams in not only the Italian circuit but in all of Europe.

"(The Italian league) is a really hard league to get into," she said. "They usually like to take Americans for the import spots."

As a pro, Thibeault has only signed one-year contracts.

"You never know the situation you're getting into," she said, adding that the first time she played in Italy she never received all of the money she had agreed to in her contract. "It can be a little risky."

Thibeault's pro contract has a clause that allows her to be released for national team duties. If Canada advances to the Olympic qualifier in January, she will miss some action with her pro club team.

Though reluctant to reveal her exact salary, Thibeault said being a pro in Europe can be lucrative, with perks including the team paying for her apartment and providing her with a car.

"It is great money and a fun lifestyle but it can be really tough sometimes," she said, adding being in a country where English is not the predominant language has its setbacks.

Thibeault, who has a degree in elementary education, is uncertain how much longer she wants to continue playing the sport.

"I don't know," she said. "I'm hoping I have at least a couple more years left. It all depends on where I am in my life."

By Sam Laskaris

Sweetgrass Writer
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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Author:Laskaris, Sam
Publication:Alberta Sweetgrass
Date:Sep 1, 2015
Words:573
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