Abbotsford volleyballer reflects on Olympic adventure

Steve Marshall was part of Canada's surprising men's indoor volleyball squad, which finished fifth in their first Olympics in 24 years

Canada’s Steven Marshall receives a serve in play during quarterfinal volleyball action against Russia at the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro

Canada’s Steven Marshall receives a serve in play during quarterfinal volleyball action against Russia at the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro

Abbotsford’s Steve Marshall is back in the Fraser Valley but still riding high after helping Canada’s men’s indoor volleyball squad to a surprising fifth-place showing at the recently concluded Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The games were Canada’s first in 24 years, but the “Maple Volleys” surpassed all expectations by knocking off two powerhouses, advancing to the quarterfinals and finishing fifth in the world.

“It was amazing,” said Marshall. “Everything was more than I expected … It was kind of overwhelming.”

The Canadians entered the tournament ranked 12th in the world and having played in the second tier of the summer’s World League. But it didn’t take long for them to make an impact, as they beat the fifth-ranked Americans in three straight sets. Back in Canada, viewers took notice, and Marshall said the team felt that support grow.

“The game against USA was huge,” he said. Suddenly, though, average sports fans were taking notice. “I think we got a lot of fans for that.”

The Canadians dropped their next match to 11th ranked France, but followed that loss with wins against Mexico and fourth-ranked Italy to book a spot in the quarterfinals.

There they lost to third-ranked Russia, but by then the Canadians had already shown the world – and themselves – that they could compete with the globe’s best volleyballers. Indeed, Italy and the United States – teams the Canadians had beaten – claimed the silver and bronze medals at the games.

“I think we rose to the level of play,” he said, noting that there was a mental shift among his teammates as they pushed the world’s top squads.

Marshall came off the bench as a substitute during the tournament, recording nine spikes and one block.

Marshall said walking into the Olympic Stadium with the rest of Team Canada was a highlight of the games. He is now back in Abbotsford for a couple days, visiting family and training with the squad at Trinity Western University, where he refined his game as a college player. On Sunday, he will be back on a plane, this time headed for Germany, where he will line up for Berlin’s Recycling Volleys in the Bundesliga, the top level of volleyball in the country.