Roster 100: Melissa & Sarah
Still chasing the Big Goal
LAUSANNE, Switzerland, January 20, 2021 - Sarah Pavan wanted to
make sure that the correct Sarah was called. Melissa Humana-Paredes
said that this was crazy, and also wondered if it was serious,
not a cruel practical joke, if her and Pavan were, indeed,
actually named to the small clutch of beach volleyball teams as
the most impactful and influential of the previous decade.
These reactions may cue an eye roll from some. Surely, this must
be false modesty. Tactical public relations. It is not.
There is nothing about either Pavan or Humana-Paredes that is
false or disingenuous. They were both genuinely, totally
surprised, honoured, thrilled, to be named to this list. Their
work is far from done, the big, capital G Goal – a gold medal at
the Tokyo Olympics – has not yet been realised.
What’s the point in taking stock in all you’ve done if the final
destination hasn’t been reached?
Pavan kicks herself for this sometimes. Sometimes she wishes she
could take it in, to celebrate, for a day, a moment, a dinner –
something. But she can’t. Just not wired that way. She struggles
revelling in their World Championship victory – a first for a
Canadian team – the Manhattan Beach Open win – another first for
an all-Canadian duo – the No. 1 world ranking, the six FIVB wins
and the guaranteed Olympic berth in 2021. And Pavan is happy, to
be sure. They both know it’s cool, all those wins. It’s just
hard to celebrate achieving something that was never really the
Big Goal to begin with.
“I don’t think I will until my career is over or until our
partnership is over,” Pavan said of taking stock of the
impressive resume her and Humana-Paredes have put together since
2017. “We’ve done some great things together, but our biggest
goal is still in front of us. Even with everything that’s
happened with COVID and not being able to play this season and
all of that, this year was supposed to be the year where it all
“We still have a chance to do that. I don’t want to be satisfied
just yet. I want to win a gold medal for our country with
Melissa. Once we’ve gone through that process together and gone
through the Olympic Games, maybe I’ll take a second to
appreciate it a little more.”
Here is what Pavan can appreciate, and loves discussing: her
partner. Not just Humana-Paredes, but the relationship, the
partnership they’ve developed. Pavan saw something in Humana-Paredes,
then a 25-year-old who had cut her teeth on the World Tour with
Taylor Pischke, that convinced her to give up her first love,
indoor volleyball, and pursue beach full-time.
“It was the hardest decision I ever had to make and also the
easiest,” Pavan said. “It was the absolute hardest thing I’ve
had to do because to this day I still love indoor volleyball. I
love the sport, my career was on a great trajectory, I loved
living overseas and the culture and just the physical domination
aspect of the game and the different tactics. It was hard to
walk away from that joy and that certainty.
“At the same time, it was an easy decision because I believed
wholeheartedly in my partnership with Melissa and our
partnership as a team. I knew I would never forgive myself if
the 2020 Olympics passed and I didn’t give my full soul to our
“We have something so incredibly special that it was like ‘This
is the right person and the right time to do this.’ I will not
be a part of something this special maybe ever again, so the
sacrifice was worth it.”
How worth it that decision was became immediately evident, in
their fourth tournament together, the 2017 Porec Major. In the
quarterfinals, they found themselves down eight points in the
third set to Anouk Verge-Depre and Joana Heidrich. An
eight-point deficit in the third set is when most fans begin
packing their bags. Grab the kids, let’s go. Game over.
But it wasn’t. They came back, slowly, surely, winning the third
set 20-18, a victory that ultimately paved their way to their
first win as partners, in one of the biggest tournaments of the
“That set the tone for who we are: No matter what the score is,
no matter what the situation may be, we will always believe we
can win. We’re going to do it together,” Pavan said. “That was a
really special moment, and that kind of laid the foundation for
all the wins to follow that.”
It’s a word Pavan used frequently to describe this team. It’s a
description that is as fitting off the court as it is on.
They’re total opposites, those two. Humana-Paredes is excitable,
one of the happier human beings you’ll come across, and she
wears it all over her 1.75m frame. Pavan is more reserved,
calculating, her emotions more internal than external. Over the
previous three years, neither has attempted to sway one to
become more like the other. They’ve found their unprecedented
strength as a team resides primarily in their differences.
“You could argue we’re complete opposites, who we are as people
and also who we are as players,” Pavan said. “I think that the
black and white dichotomy that we have going on allows us to
meet each other in the middle so much more than if we were
playing with someone who’s exactly like us.
“I think we understand that both of us operate in the best
interest of each other and in the best interest of our team.
Just that trust and the understanding that even if we might not
understand what the other person is doing, we know where they’re
coming from. That has allowed our relationship to grow and
develop in a really impactful way. We work within a system but
we allow each other to be who we are. I don’t put reins on
Melissa and she doesn’t try to change how I operate on the court
either. We have developed this system where we allow each other
to be free.”
That freedom, that connection, has paved the way for what is
currently the most successful beach volleyball partnership in
Canadian beach volleyball history.
But shh, don’t tell them that. They’re not finished yet.
“We have so many goals we want to hit that we haven’t reached
yet,” Humana-Paredes said. “It’s hard to look back when we just
keep looking forward.”