Russia a hit for Schmitt

 Canadian volleyball star tackles challenges on and off the court

OTTAWA – Canadian volleyball star Gavin Schmitt is capitalizing on a great experience this season with his new professional volleyball team in Russia. 

After a couple of seasons in the South Korean pro league,  then a busy spring with Team Canada that included the Olympic qualifying tournament and the World League tournament,  the Saskatoon native signed to play winter volleyball with Iskra Odintsovo. 

The city of Odintsovo is located near Moscow.  The Iskra team was founded in 1979 and is a perennial powerhouse in the Russian Superleague.  This season the squad is in sixth place with four wins and four losses.  The team has also advanced to the quarterfinals in the CEV Cup and is 2-1 in Russia Cup play.

“So far it has been a great experience,” said Schmitt, 26. “It’s been very challenging for me, which is why I came here.  I wanted to be pushed to improve and I am being pushed here. I have a good group of teammates and staff that help me work on my game.”

Most of the teams in the Russian Superleague have jumped on the opportunity to allow two foreign players. Along with Schmitt, Odintsovo signed Rafael Redwitz from Brazil. 

“The level here is really high,” said Schmitt.  “The competition from top to bottom is really good, the league is filled with really good players so there are no easy games. On top of that the league brought in a bunch of very good foreigners this year so a lot of people say that the league might be the strongest it’s ever been.”

The League started in October and runs until May. So far Schmitt has enjoyed life in the world’s largest country and certain facets remind him of home.

“I really enjoy it here,” he said. “For some reason I feel very comfortable, maybe it’s the climate or something but it feels kind of like home. I have a nice place to live, it’s very comfortable and I feel really good here, I have been studying the language a bit to try and communicate but that’s not so easy.”

The 6’10” Schmitt was expecting his team to fare better and is hopeful for a better second half.

“Coming in, our expectations were high, though due to a lot of injuries we have been having a bit of a tough time,” he said. “We have a lot of different players than last year and haven't been playing as well as we hoped, that being said we are still in a decent situation and just need to pull it together and get some positive results to hopefully set up a good situation for playoffs.”

You can keep tabs on Gavin via twitter at @SchmittyGav