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LANGLEY, British Columbia – Since capping a five-year career with the Trinity Western women’s volleyball team with a CIS national championship this past spring, Casie Gano (Sundre, Alta.) has taken her game to Greece. The former Spartan middle/outside/opposite recently moved to Thessaloniki and is now playing professionally with Aris Volleyball Club.

Over the summer, Gano worked with A Rocha Canada in Surrey, B.C., before embarking on her journey to Greece. Since arriving in Thessaloniki, her team has played in a couple tournaments as it prepares for the 2015-16, which launches Oct. 17.

The Alumni Spotlight recently caught up with the former Spartan from her home in Thessaloniki.

So, you’re in Greece playing professional volleyball. What is that like?

“I was skeptical about coming here because of what everyone says about Greece and its current situation, but I find that the pulse here is a lot different than what we hear in the news. I know that things are bad and they admit things aren’t great, but it’s not quite as bad as I thought it might be.

“I’m happy I ended up here. The culture is awesome. Greece is great. People welcome you in no matter what and they eat a lot of food and they’re very friendly people. My team is really awesome. My coach is really kind. He’s like a (Ryan) Hofer, but Greek version, which is really great. It’s not that glamourous. I’m not getting paid thousands of dollars, but I kind of knew that going in. I came here mostly for the experience and I’m not complaining about anything.”

What is your team like?

“My team ranges from in age from a 28 year-old to a 16-year-old. There are two Brazilian girls and me and then the rest are Greek. They’re all pretty good and pretty athletic and we have the potential to be good. It’s very close to the CIS level. Our team got bumped up to the A1 division, which is the top division in Greece, and our goal is to finish in the top three of our league.”

What’s your role on the court with the team?

“I’m definitely being relied upon in a way that I’ve never been before. So that’s both awesome and terrifying because I’ve never really had that before.

“I’m exclusively playing right side and it’s nice to be in one position. For me, I feel like the biomechanics of my arm are better on the outside, but that’s just my opinion. They have four middles here and I’m the only right side, so I get to just play right side, which is nice.”

So have you learned Greek yet?

“No. It’s almost impossible. It’s so hard. Basically they said, ‘We’ll give you 10 years and then you’ll know it.’ Because I hang out with the Brazilian girls a lot, I’m actually learning more Portuguese than Greek.”

How has it been leaving in Greece by yourself?

“I’ve never actually lived by myself. I’m very independent, but I’ve never lived alone. I’m not the most punctual person in the world, so this is a new challenge for me. I usually have Alicia (Perrin) and four other girls telling me to leave and I don’t have that.”

How did your time at TWU prepare you this experience?

Our experience at TWU is very well-rounded, so you’re exposed to a lot of things. I learned the value of being open to new people and new ways of doing things and for the most part at TWU, I was encouraged to do that.

“When it comes to volleyball, I realized how lucky I am to have basically the best strength and conditioning trainers and coaches from TWU, who really care about the details. I realized I have a really strong foundation from our Spartan crew, including strength and conditioning. People here respect me as a player because I have that foundation and I’m really grateful for that.”

Prior to leaving for Greece, you worked with A Rocha over the summer. How did that come about and what was that experience like?

“I knew about it from TWU because in my environmental studies we did a lot with A Rocha. So, with all these connections, this opportunity to work there all summer came up and I obviously jumped on it. I just worked in the garden. They have a three-acre organic garden and it feeds about 200 people, including some refugee communities as well as people who buy a share in the garden. Every week people get produce that is in season and we just take care of everything in the garden and I did everything you can think of that is garden related.

“A large part of the organization is hospitality and bringing people in and teaching them some skills and listening to them. It’s an awesome community and I loved it.”

So, now that you’ve earned your first professional contract, is volleyball a career option for you?

“I definitely came here with the mindset that this was going to be one year and I would go and explore the world. As of right now, that’s still how I feel. But I’ve met a few key people in the sporting world recently and talking about it as a career is something I’m not sure about. I’ll reevaluate later I guess