22.06.2019 - Hamburg, Germany
2019 was always going to be a busy and special year for Megan and Nicole McNamara. After dominating the American collegiate beach volleyball scene for most of the last four years, the 21-year-old Canadian twins entered the year with plans of graduating from the prestigious UCLA and jumping into the life of professional beach volleyball players.
However, they found a nice way to make their jump a nose dive and the year even busier and more special in April, when they won a match against fellow Canadians Sophie Bukovec and Taylor Pischke and secured the country’s continental spot at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships Hamburg 2019 presented by comdirect and ALDI Nord and the opportunity to debut at the tournament later this month.
“We definitely didn’t expect to qualify for the World Championships,” Nicole explained. “Our first World Tour event was a one-star in Bangkok last year, so we didn’t anticipate qualifying after just over one year. The level will be extremely high, something we have learned after playing in the Itapema and Jinjiang four-star events. We had the opportunity to play against some very strong teams in Itapema which will prepare us for the competition we will face in Hamburg.”
Those were, actually, their only appearances in World Tour four-star events so far – they have eight World events under their belts with two fourth-place finishes. The Canadians had successful youth careers, taking the silver medal at the 2014 Youth Olympics and a bronze at Under-19 and Under-21 World Championships, but are yet to be tested among the beach volleyball elite.
To them, however, that could actually become a positive factor as most of their opponents are not used to their playing style, based on aggressive serving and a dynamic offense.
“I definitely think this could be an advantage for us,” Megan acknowledged. “Our playing style is unique, so having the other teams be unfamiliar with that is something that we could use to our advantage.”
One of the few international stops of their careers, though, was in Germany. Less than a year ago, Megan and Nicole headed to Munich to represent Canada at the Beach Volleyball World Championships.
They returned home with gold medals around their necks and a handful of memorable experiences in the country that hosts the 2019 World Championships.
“We had so much fun playing at the World University Games,” Nicole reflected. “We loved Germany and can’t wait to go back for the World Championships. We never expected to qualify for this event, so we feel so lucky to have the opportunity to go back and play in the same tournament as all of the best teams in the world.”
The twins’ route in Hamburg will start on pool A against top-seeded Germans Chantal Laboureur and Sandra Itllinger, Italians Marta Menegatti and Viktoria Orsi Toth and Paraguayans Michelle Valiente and Patricia Caballero.
Despite playing at the sport’s highest level for the first time, Megan and Nicole are certainly going to Hamburg with plenty of confidence.
“Our goal is to prove that we belong at that level and to make it as far in the tournament as possible,” Nicole says. “We played against the Germans in Itapema and won 2-0, but they are a strong team so we expect to have another tough match against them. We have never played against the Italian team or Paraguay. We are feeling confident and can’t wait to compete.”
The final stage of their preparation for the World Championships was highlighted by yet another change in their recent lives. After living in California for the last years, the twins moved to Toronto, where they will be part of the Canadian National Team and have access to the same infrastructure that helped Sarah Pavan, Melissa Humana-Paredes, Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson to be part of the international beach volleyball elite.
And, perhaps most importantly, they will get to practice every single day in that same court where they qualified for their first World Championships.
“We expect that being full time professional athletes and training with Volleyball Canada will advance our careers at the international level,” Megan remarked. “The support team with Volleyball Canada seems incredible and we can’t wait to get there.”