Canada (CAN) vs. Italy (ITA) women - Pool 6 - Preliminary Phase #5529041

Alexa Gray is arguably the brightest star of the Canadian women’s national team and a key part of the team’s recent rise in international volleyball. The 29-year-old outside hitter and her teammates fell just short of qualifying for next year’s Olympics through the Road to Paris qualifiers in September, but positioned themselves high enough in the FIVB World Ranking to have a good shot at a ticket to the Games, if they do well in Volleyball Nations League 2024.

Having taken up volleyball during her school years in her native Calgary and successfully played high-level varsity volleyball in the United States, Gray started her professional career in Korea, but shortly transferred to the Italian league, where she competed for six seasons. With her most recent Italian club, Prosseco Doc Imoco Conegliano, the 1.85m-tall Canadian triumphed at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s Club World Championship and registered a 2022-2023 golden treble domestically. She was instrumental in the deciding championship match against Vero Volley Milan, when she was subbed in to fuel Imoco to an impressive comeback towards the title.

As of this season, Gray is defending the colours of Turkish powerhouse Eczacibasi Dynavit Istanbul. Just days ahead of returning to the Club World Championship with her new team, she took the time for an exclusive Volleyball World interview.

It is your first season playing in Türkiye. How is it different from your past experiences in Italy and have you been able to adapt?

“I think the biggest difference for me is the fast pace of Türkiye. There’s a lot of people, it’s crowded, there’s a lot going on, there are tons of restaurants and I think that’s different from Italy. Italy is a little bit more calm in some places. Obviously, the big cities are busy, but in general, Türkiye is very busy. Volleyball-wise, I think they are very similar. Both are high-level, both are very demanding and also being in the Champions League makes it a little bit harder, but I think, in general, the level in Türkiye is just as good as in Italy. Maybe top to bottom Italy is a little bit stronger, but Türkiye is very challenging as well.”

Outside volleyball, how are you enjoying life in Istanbul? Whom do you hang out with in your free time?

“I am enjoying it a lot, going to nice restaurants... There are a lot of beautiful sites to see and the Bosporus is really nice to spend your off-time. I spend a lot of time with Jole (Jovana) Stevanovic and some of my American friends who are playing on other teams like Galatasaray and VakifBank – Chiaka (Ogbogu), Jordan Thompson, Danielle Cuttino. I hung out with Ali (Alexandra) Frantti a few times... On the court, we are competitors, but afterwards we are enjoying each others’ company and like to go out and see each other.”

What would make a successful first season with Eczacibasi for you?

“Our goals are to win as many cups as possible. For me, I’m just trying to stay consistent, and I know, when I’m consistent good things will happen. Our next goal is the Club World Championship and I hope we can win that.”

As a reigning club world champion with Imoco, do you feel you can repeat your success with Eczacibasi this year?

“I truly feel that we have a really good opportunity. We have a lot of moving parts on our team. We have a lot of weapons that are able to come off the bench, and if we need it, we have a lot of depth. So I’m really excited and I think we can have a good tournament, play against some of the best teams in the world and still come out on top.”

You were the big hero for Imoco in the crucial fifth game of the Italian final against Vero Volley, but you were not a regular starter for the team. Is that why you left the club?

“No. I just felt that I’d been in Italy for a really long time. I was there for six seasons and I’ve always wanted to play in Türkiye. I guess it was just time for me to move on.”

How would you comment on the recent rise of the Canadian women's national team? What will VNL 2024 be like for the team in view of the opportunity to qualify for Paris?

“I am very proud of my Canadian national team. I think we’ve come a long way since I first started playing there seven years ago. We have a lot of young talent and over the years we’ve had players getting better contracts and playing in better leagues, and I think that’s one of the main reasons for our rise in the World Ranking. I am really excited to play in the VNL next year. I think it will be really tough, but we have a good opportunity to qualify, if we all show up and play for the 12 games that we have. We have a really great opportunity and we have a good team, so I am very passionate about that.”

Finally, name the six athletes you would like to play with on the volleyball team of your dreams.

“I think it would be fun to play next to Gabi (Gabriela Guimaraes). As a setter, I think it’d be really fun to play with Asia (Joana Wolosz). She is a great setter! Middle blockers... I think Thaisa (Menezes) obviously is internationally known and has some great history. It’d be fun to play next to her. Among opposites, I’ll go with Paola Egonu. I haven’t played with her yet, so that would be good. I think (Brenda) Castillo, the Dominican libero, is amazing. And for the other middle I think (Sinead) Jack is really amazing.”

  • Watch the 2023 FIVB Volleyball Women’s Club World Championship live on  VBTV