AFTER two years, TT volleyballer Sinead Jack-Kisal has returned to Turkey – this time, with a new team. She will now be sporting blue and white as she represents İller Bankası (İlbank).
The 26-year-old middle blocker first competed in Turkey with Galatasaray HDI Sigorta from 2016-2018. And after that, she moved to Japan’s Denso Airybees.
She had also previously represented Białystok, Poland (2010-2013) and VC Uralochka-NTMK, Russia (2013-2016).
The Japanese team completed the round-robin stage of the V-League in the top position, with 51 points from 18 victories and three losses from their 21 matches. But in the semi-final, they were defeated by Okayama Seagulls 26-24, 25-14, 19-25, 13-25, 15-7.
When she spoke to Newsday in March, she had said, “We finished fourth and I got two awards, best spiker and named on the ‘Best Six’ as one of the middle blockers. We didn’t really accomplish our goals but our team improved a lot from last season.”
She was unable to return to TT after its borders were closed owing to the covid19 pandemic. Instead, she ventured to Turkey with her husband – who is originally from there – not knowing she’d soon sign for a new team.
She told Newsday she thoroughly enjoyed her time in Japan as it was “an awesome learning experience.
“They only choose one foreigner, so you have to be really, really good in order for them to choose you.
“Most of the women are short so they depend heavily on speed and defence – not so much attacking and blocking. Being there taught me to not depend on my comfort zone because as a taller player (6’5), my defence was not really good. I had to learn everything – defence, reception - they really helped me improve that part of the game and enhance my power.”
She said the match schedule was different and it took some getting used to, as the team would have back-to-back games on Saturday and Sunday.
“I always wanted to play in Japan, I just didn’t expect to play there so soon. Usually, people go there when they want to retire.
“It was awesome - the people, the fans, their culture. It’s something that I always wanted to experience. I made some friends that eventually turned into sisters. The players don’t look at each other as just teammates but as family because they are so close-knit.”
She said she also learned a bit of Japanese, adding that her teammates always enjoyed hearing her speak in their native tongue.
But she said after the “amazing” experience she had playing in Turkey the first time around, she knew she would return someday.
She is one of two non-Turkish nationals on the team, with the second being Russian setter Eva Mori.
The team is currently 14th on the Division One table of the Turkish Women’s Volleyball League.
“I felt like it was my second home so I always told myself I could settle down here. So to get the opportunity to play here again…
“I have to adjust again, because remember, in Japan they rely on speed, the blockers were short. But now in Europe, everyone is tall, you have to rely on your height. So I’m still adjusting to it but slowly but surely I will get my rhythm back.”
In addition to this, she said she is really happy to be able to spend more time with members of her family and old friends.
Apart from English, she speaks Russian, Polish, Japanese and Turkish – enough to get by, she said.
She said her new team’s main focus is “staying in the league,” which she hopes she can greatly assist with.
“They’ve been in and out of the league for a few years so they really just want to get consistent so the team can develop.
“My aim is to help them as much as I can and play to the best of my ability and use this as a way to get back in shape. Because I hadn’t touched the ball five months prior to training with them.”
She said life has not been easy amid the covid19 pandemic, especially for athletes. She’s used to being very active, so it has been a challenging time.
“I handled it pretty well. I was doing home workouts with my husband – he helped me a lot in terms of my eating habits and working out. And eventually, I found a team in his city and they helped prepare me court-wise. I am very thankful for that.
“This pandemic really taught us a lot about being grateful, more appreciative about the things that we have and that tomorrow is not promised. So, in a sense, the pandemic has been something good and something bad. But I’m just thankful for everything.”