The McNamaras Are Back On The World Tour

SOCHI, Russia - Megan and Nicole McNamara have tried to compete. Honestly, they have.


For two years, in fact, they’ve been trying to get into tournaments. Even went all the way to Australia to do so once, in the spring of 2019, before the event was canceled due to COVID.


“It was a bummer,” said Nicole, whom you can identify on the court by her playing right side, and hitting left-handed. “We had a nice 48 hours. We went out to some restaurants. It was almost worth it.”




They’re foodies, the twins. If you're looking for a tour guide to find the best pizza in Tokyo, the best grub in the Outback, they're the women for the job. But still: Even if they were to tour the entire country, hit the best restaurants, find all the local eats, that’s no small chunk of change to not play a tournament. Nothing beats competing, particularly when you’re as competitive as the McNamaras, who helped lift a UCLA programme and elevate it into a two-time NCAA Championship team that is now one of the most formidable in the country.


So they tried again. Just a few weeks ago. This time, they wouldn’t have to travel around the planet to get to a single three-star, as they attempted to do in Sydney. It wouldn’t be one tournament, but three. It wouldn’t be somewhere as foreign as Australia, but their home away from home: the McNamaras were going to compete in Cancun, Mexico. Back-to-back-to-back events, in a country they love, a country they know, a country in which they’ve enjoyed abundant success.


And then…COVID.


Nicole tested positive.


Again, they had done everything they could to compete. They’d been training, lifting, preparing in every way. Again, they couldn’t get out of the country, couldn’t do what they love to do, what they do for a living.


Again, the McNamaras couldn’t play beach volleyball.


This week, in Sochi, Russia, that changed. The McNamaras were cleared for takeoff for the Sochi four-star. The event was happening – with fans, too!


For the first time since the Vienna Major in July of 2019, Megan and Nicole McNmaras were competing on the World Tour.


“It was the typical pregame butterflies, but we had some good meetings beforehand and we talked about how we just want to enjoy the experience and not work ourselves up about the outcome,” Nicole said. “We really thrive with the underdog mindset too so we tried to create that for ourselves. We haven’t played in a really long time, all these teams have either been playing FIVBs or National Tours, so we kind of viewed ourselves as the underdogs and it definitely translated to how we played.”


Their first match in nearly two years came against another pair of sisters, Emi and Mexime van Driel of the Netherlands. They won, 21-19, 21-12, navigating the qualifier in a matter of 36 minutes.


The McNamaras were back in the main draw.


Back where they belong.


“It feels like this is where we belong,” Megan said. “We’ve worked for so long and I’m definitely noticing improvements in our game from the last time we were on tour and being at work against really strong teams is a really good feeling.”


Those improvements were on full display in their first main draw match, against Germany’s Laura Ludwig and Margareta Kozuch. They lost, sure, but it was close, an 18-21, 20-22 battle against the reigning World Tour Finals champions.


Against one of the greatest defenders in the game.


“To be on the court against a really good team was really great, and to be able to feel like we were able to hold our own, the scores were tight and it could have gone either way,” Nicole said. “It felt good to match with their level. If you would have told our younger selves that we had a close game with Ludwig, we would have been pretty pumped.”


For some, that’s enough. To simply compete well against an Olympic gold medalist is an accomplishment in and of itself. But the twins continued their run, beating Japan’s Miki Ishii and Megumi Murakami to break pool, then moving onto the round of 16 with a win over the Netherlands’ Marleen Van Iersel and Pleun Ypma.


Their run came to an end a short while later, against fellow Canadians Brandie Wilkerson and Heather Bansley. But still: a ninth? In their first event in nearly two years? After being limited to training indoors for much of that period? After one setback after the next?

A good restart to the McNamaras’ careers. No doubt about it.


“It’s just so nice to see familiar faces, feel that competitive fire inside of us,” Megan said. “Almost two full years of training, you can play little scrimmages, but it’s hard to simulate how you’ll feel in a full tournament. It’s been amazing just to be back here. So far we’re really happy with how we played. We played with strong confidence in the qualifier, got that out of the way, then lost a close one to a strong German team. It was tough, but happy with how we played.


“We’re really trying to focus on the process, not the outcome, in these tournaments. It’s been so long so we don’t want to put any external expectations on ourselves to get this finish. We just want to come, work on what we’ve been working on all off-season, see if we can implement it, see what works.”