Calgary’s Alexa Gray drinks in all her volleyball career has to offer

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Risotto fits well in the world of Alexa Gray.

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The same goes for a good glass of Chianti from Tuscany.

But what the Calgarian is known to have knocked down the most in Italy are volleyballs…

A killing here.

A peak there…

All it takes for Gray to get the job done from his outside hitter position.

“Wine and food are the best parts of the game in Italy,” said Gray, a Team Canada leader at the 2022 Volleyball Nations League leg currently taking place in Calgary. “I spent a year in South Korea playing there after college, and I’ve been in Italy for five years in one of the best leagues in the world.

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“I love it.”

And why not?

Gray, 27, lives 30 kilometers north of Venice – a cultural mecca of the world – and plays the sport she loves so much.

It’s quite the gig if you can get it.

“It was a really rewarding experience for me,” said Gray, who plays the game professionally for Imoco Volley Conegliano in Italy’s Serie A1. “I met so many friends from different parts of the world and different countries. And it was really fun for me to learn about different cultures and play volleyball.

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“The job I have is super unique – I can live in Italy and earn money playing volleyball. And I love traveling the world.

This week, her travels have brought her home, where she’s helping Canada gain a foothold in the VNL action.

It’s been ten years since she’s been on the court in Calgary, so the time on the court during six days of world-class women’s competition at Tsuut’ina Nation’s 7 Chiefs Sportsplex is welcome.

She can once again show her game – as one of the best outside hitters in the world – to her friends and family.

“I’m super excited to play in Calgary again,” Gray said. “It’s kind of fun to be back.”

The hope is that it will be a winning comeback.

Gray and host Canada (4-6)who needs success in this four-game Week 3 to stay in the Volleyball Nations League next year, got off to a great start at 7 Chiefs with Tuesday’s 3-1 (25-22, 21-25, 25-22, 25-23) victory over Turkey (5-4). It was the women’s fourth domestic victory in the VNL campaign, one more than they collected with a frustrating 3-12 last year – their first in the loop – during the restricted bubble by COVID in Rimini, Italy.

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Gray herself picked up 22 points beating Turkey, a real sign that she has embraced the tournament in her hometown.

Fellow Calgary and outside hitter Hilary Howe had 14 points for Canada in the win.

And both were hoping for more success on the Calgary field Friday night against Serbia (7-4) but didn’t get it in a 3-1 loss (25-20, 25-14, 20-25, 25 -22).

“I’m getting older, so I have to be a leader on the team – I have to be consistent,” said Gray, who is among Canada’s top players with 132 points – including 123 on offense – for a good average close to 14 per game. Only Kiera Van Ryk of Surrey, B.C., has more — with 170 points overall — over Canada.

“I’m getting older, so I have to be a leader in the team – I have to be consistent,” said Gray, who is among Canada’s top players with 129 total points – including 120 on offense – for a good average of 14.33 per game. Only Kiera Van Ryk of Surrey, B.C. had more — with 151 points overall — for Canada.

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“I think I’m more of an example of a leader,” continued Gray, who is nearly 6-foot-1 and 165 pounds. “I’m not much of a talker. I like to be a leader through the consistency of my game, and that helps bring consistency to the team on the pitch.

The 2022 FIVB Volleyball Nations League features the top 16 men’s and 16 women’s teams battling for VNL supremacy at venues across Europe, North America, South America and Asia this summer. This year’s edition has a dynamic new format that features teams competing in eight-team pools, with the top eight teams per gender, including the host, then progressing to the knockout final stage of the competition .

An invite to this knockout stage would be great, but they need wins here to do that.

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After Friday night’s Canada Day matchup with Serbia, the Canucks take on Germany (3-7) on Saturday (8 p.m.) and end the week against the Netherlands (3-8) on Sunday (5 p.m.) .

Whenever the summer ends for Canada, Gray will return to Italy for a good life and another year of professional volleyball starting in September.

“I also played basketball in high school, but I think it was a little too physical for me,” added Gray, a graduate of Centennial High School in Calgary, Dinos Volleyball Club in Calgary. University of Calgary and the BYU Cougars of the NCAA before turning professional in the sport. “And I watched my older cousin (former national team member Kelci French) play volleyball growing up. So I always found a passion for it, and it never slowed down.

“Volleyball has always been my No. 1 sport, so I think that was a clear winner for me.”

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