North America gold for Abbotsford volleyballer

Steven Marshall wearing Canadian colours after finishing his first year of professional volleyball in Poland.

Abbotsford's Steven Marshall played the last year for Transfer Bydgoszcz in Poland.

Abbotsford's Steven Marshall played the last year for Transfer Bydgoszcz in Poland.

After a year spent refining his game in Poland, Abbotsford’s Steven Marshall helped propel Canada to North American volleyball gold Saturday, leading the national team in points during a five-set victory over the United States.

Marshall, who is in his second summer with the national team, led Canada with 21 points in the final of the NORCECA Cup in Detroit. By making the final at the four-team event – which is run by the governing body of North American international volleyball – Canada guaranteed itself its first World Cup volleyball appearance since 2003.

For Marshall, that game marked another high point in a career that has taken a major leap forward since he graduated from Trinity Western University in 2014.

Last month, Marshall concluded his first season with Transfer Bydgoszcz in Poland, and earlier this year, he was again named part  of the Canadian setup for the FIVB Volleyball World League 2015.

Prior to the NORCECA CUP, Marshall told The News that playing professionally in a high-stakes environment helped him take his game to another level.

“Being my first season overseas, I didn’t know what to expect,” Marshall said of Polish volleyball.

What he found, though, were thousands of boisterous fans.

Volleyball is one of the most popular sports in Poland, and Marshall’s team regularly sold out the 8,000-seat arena it played in.

“It was really cool,” he said. “It’s similar to playing hockey in Canada.

“Everyone was a little bit volleyball-crazy.”

Marshall plays a wing striker position, but at six-foot-one, he’s rarely one of the biggest players on the volleyball floor. He says playing in Poland – which boasts one of the best volleyball leagues in the world – has brought his game to a new level.

“I had to be pushing myself every day at every practice,” he said. “I think it’s going to be helpful for me, playing in such a strong league.”

As great as the Polish experience was, Marshall won’t be returning to Bydgoszcz next year; he has recently accepted an offer from a team in Germany, where he hopes to be one of the team’s more-important players.

“I think it’s going to be really good for me.”

As for playing with Team Canada, Marshall told The News he was feeling more comfortable in national team colours as the squad geared up for the League season – which runs until July and features national teams from around the globe.

After being “the new guy” last summer, Marshall said he was feeling more confident playing with the nation’s best volleyballers.

Canada played its first World League games May 16 and 17 in Calgary against Cuba, winning both matches in straight sets.

Team Canada resumes World League action this weekend in Bulgaria.

Last year, Canada recorded its best ever result at the World Championships, a seventh place finish. Canada will hope to build on that momentum to qualify for its first Olympic games since 1992.

Meanwhile, they’ll also hope to set the stage for a successful performance at the 2015 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Cup, which will be held in September in Japan. The top two teams at that competition will qualify for next year’s Olympic Games.