Acuna sets for national team

Katie Brickman
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Former Clipper is libero for Costa Rican team

Pablo Acuna may be finished playing for Briercrest College, but his volleyball days are far from over.

Pablo Acuna, a former Briercrest Clipper men's volleyball player for five years will now be setting for the Costa Rican national team. Acuna is in Ontario, trying to help the Costa Rican team qualify for the 2014 FIVB Volleyball World Championships in Poland. Photo By Josh Schaefer/CCAA

And the goal got a lot bigger.

Acuna and the Costa Rican national team are back in Canada to compete for a spot at the 2014 FIVB Volleyball World Championships in Poland in August.

The action kicks off this afternoon when Costa Rica takes on Trinidad and Tobago. They will play Panama on Saturday and then face Canada on Sunday. The top two seeds will then play in the final on Monday.

“We want to win, but also, if we get that second place, we could play for the wildcard round,” said Acuna from Mississauga, Ont.

In the NORCECA (North America, Central America and Caribbean) division, Costa Rica was ranked 13th overall.

They had to play two previous round before getting to this stage. In the first round, they played Nicaragua and Guatemala. In the second round, they played against two other Caribbean countries.

Acuna was not part of the team yet at that point, as he and the Clippers were still competing for the CCAA men’s volleyball national championship in Moose Jaw.

“For this tournament, I joined right away after I was finished my classes at Briercrest in April,” said Acuna.

Acuna is from San Jose, Costa Rica and has been a part of the national program for the last two years during the summer months.

“I got the call last year when I was at Briercrest. The national team coach told (coach) Nigel (Mullan) that he wanted reports on me about how I was doing because they were thinking about me,” explained Acuna. “I wasn’t aware of that (him asking). Nigel hinted at it a bit, just to try and use that as motivate for that season.”

When Acuna did find out that he officially made the team, he was “excited”, but “was really focused on Briercrest”.

Acuna credits Mullan with developing his skills as libero on the court and as a better person off the court.

“With Nigel, I think with him being one of the top coaches in Canada in the collegiate level, I think it helped me to grow in my game. I definitely improved in my passing and in my defence because of him. It also helps to practice every day and helps to approach volleyball in a professional way like Briercrest does,” he said. “When you are part of a volleyball program like Briercrest, they demand a lot of you and that helps you lots.”

When he first put that national jersey on, it was exciting, but he also understood the extra responsibility that goes with it.

“It felt so great. That feeling like you are part of a bigger thing. You are representing your country and a lot of people are thinking about you and thinking about the national team. They are going to be watching and we are going to be all over the news,” Acuna said. “It is a really big honour. It demands discipline and a lot of responsibility.  At the same time, it enables you to have fun and enjoy this unique opportunity.”

The regional qualification stage determines the 24 teams that will compete in the championship. Africa is granted three spots, Asia/Oceania has four spots, Europe with eight, NORCECA with five sports and South American with three spots.  

The FIVB championship runs from Aug. 30 to Sept. 21 in seven different Polish venues.

Follow Katie on Twitter @katiebrickman.

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