National junior beach volleyball players, Malika Davidson and Chelsi Ward, anticipate a challenging year ahead as they take a step up by attempting to qualify for the 2015 Pan American Games which serves off in Toronto, Canada, from July 10-26.

Having gotten their feet wet on the international level at the 2014 Youth Olympics in China, Davidson and Ward are intent on making their mark.

On November 27, 2013, the athletes sealed their Youth Olympic spot by topping the Caribbean Volleyball Association Zonal NORCECA qualifiers at Maracas Bay. They have now shifted focus to compete at the senior level in an effort to qualify for the coming Pan Am. However, they will officially remain on the junior circuit as they also prepare for several Invitational and Under-20 tournaments within the coming months.

Speaking to head coach of the duo, Sean Morrison, recently, he described the preceding year as a success and a major stepping stone for himself and the two beach volleyballers.

“I would say that we had a good year on the circuit,” said Morrison. “Our preparations before (Youth Olympics) was about 80 percent with getting the girls together, training, heading to the gyms, court time, Maracas (Bay) training. We could have spent a bit more time in camps and preparation but it was still good enough. Moving forward for us, we are trying to prepare for the local Pan American Games qualifier. We will have to play some local qualifiers against some of the best senior teams in Trinidad and Tobago if we are to qualify. We expect it to be tough.”

Morrison also lauded the bravery shown by his athletic prospects and commended them for silencing several critics who thought his team would be unable to qualify for the Youth Olympics. As coach of the Davidson/ Ward combination for the past three years, Morrison expressed pleasure with the type of experience his athletes returned home with from the China experience.

Meanwhile, both Davidson and Ward were pleased with 2014 and revealed that they will be utilising their newfound knowledge.

“I found that it was a really productive year,” said the 17-year-old Ward.

“e worked really hard and trained for the entire summer to prepare for our Olympic performance. I thought we went out there and performed well. We advanced out of our group and that was very impressive for me. Progressing out of the groups alongside the greatest volleyball nations was indeed a personal and team achievement for us,” she added.

The Bishop Anstey High School pupil continued, “Watching the more experienced teams play, we learnt a lot from them. We saw some things that we need to do a bit more work and improve on with respect to our fitness levels and the type of game we play.”

Additionally, University of the Southern Caribbean (USC) Behavioural Sciences student, Davidson, shared similar sentiments on her just concluded year and welcomed the many challenges presented in the coming season.

“It was a success because we accomplished our goal of making it to the Olympics and coming out of the group was the highlight for us,” added Davidson. Playing (on the Youth Olympic stage) was a really good experience for me. I remember viewing some games of the other top nations and it has helped me a lot. Seeing how they handle some of the situations during games has helped me a lot even though we all play differently.

We also played against teams that were preparing for the Youth Olympics for about four years prior, while we only had one (year to prepare). And showing that we could have kept up (competitively) with the more experienced teams was unbelievable, I’m proud of us,” concluded Davidson.