It wasn't the most important match Megan Cyr ever played.
It wasn't for a gold medal, nor was it at the Olympics or the world championships, but the St. Andrews native can look back at Aug. 24, 2019 as the perfect ending to her career on the Canadian senior women's volleyball team. Last week Cyr announced her retirement from competitive volleyball after nearly a decade playing for Team Canada and a professional career featuring stops in Austria, Germany, Greece, Italy and Switzerland.
It was the 2019 NORCECA Champions Cup and Cyr — a setter who first made a name for herself at Lord Selkirk Regional Comprehensive Secondary School where she led the Royals to three provincial titles — and her Canadian teammates were playing Puerto Rico for bronze. The event was played in Colorado Springs and Cyr's former teammates from her two years at the University of Colorado were in the stands to cheer her on, but even more importantly, so were her parents, Patricia and Curtis. They made the drive south to see their daughter compete, not knowing it would be the last time she would play for the red and white.
"It ended up being so special... I just remember feeling like I was back to high school Megan, just playing with so much joy, excitement, and competitiveness, and then we won." – Megan Cyr
At the time, it wasn't where Cyr wanted to be. There was a Canadian team playing in an Olympic qualifier and she wasn't included. Instead, she was captaining a group that featured a mix of A team and B team players at a four-team event with a lot less at stake. But it turns out it's exactly where Cyr was meant to be.
"It ended up being so special... I just remember feeling like I was back to high school Megan, just playing with so much joy, excitement, and competitiveness, and then we won. Looking up in the stands and having all my supporters who've been there pretty much my whole career there was a pretty special moment," said Cyr, who also played three seasons at North Carolina State, finishing her NCAA career in 2012 before turning pro.
"I didn't realize the bigger picture then. Had I not been on that team, had I been in Russia or the Dominican, my parents wouldn't have seen my last game. I don't really remember the last game they got to see in person so that's pretty special, especially because my dad passed away in January. It was kind of like a finale in a way. I have a picture and if I zoom in, he's really blurry, but you can see him standing up and cheering. I just know he was so proud and I remember telling them after that game that if that was my final game as a national team player, I was at peace with that."
After that match, Cyr, now 31, was on the fence about continuing to play overseas. She decided she would play, but only if it was in Switzerland, her favourite country to play professionally. The problem was by the time Cyr made that decision, it was October and most clubs had already filled their rosters. But once again, things somehow worked out for the best.
"I always said I wasn't going to step away until my body couldn't do it anymore or if I was forced out. I was going back and forth and COVID was kind of pushing me out." – Megan Cyr
"I went to sleep one night and one of my teammates was playing in a small town called Aesch in Switzerland. I looked at her roster photo and I was like 'Oh yeah, I recognize some of those girls. That's a cool team.' And went to sleep. The next morning, my agent messaged me and was like 'Hey, the team that your teammate (Canadian middle blocker Jazmine White) plays for in Aesch, their setter just went down with an ACL tear. Do you want to go play?' I was like 'Oh yeah!' I did say the only way I'd go back was if it was Switzerland so there I was, back again."
Cyr wasn't back for as long as she hoped. The club, Sm'Aesch Pfeffingen, was on top of the standings at the end of the regular season, but the playoffs got axed as the wrath of the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning to make its way around the world. Then in June, Cyr found out the Canadian national team was also going to take a hiatus because of the pandemic. With the long layoff and all the uncertainty, Cyr made the decision to retire. Cyr joined the Canadian senior women's team in 2011 and went on to play in 86 international competitions, fifth-most among active players. Some career highlights include helping the program win gold at the 2019 Challenger Cup and representing the country at the 2019 Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru.
"Honestly, it made the decision a little bit easier. It's hard to walk away from a sport that's given me so much and that I still loved a lot. I always said I wasn't going to step away until my body couldn't do it anymore or if I was forced out. I was going back and forth and COVID was kind of pushing me out," she said.
"I think it's easy to keep going, going, and going, especially when you're not looking for something else. I think it was a combination of COVID happened and then another door opened, a door that I was really excited about as well... That door kind of gave me like a seamless transition into something else I really love doing. I didn't have a long period of wondering and trying to figure out what's next."
"I just love kids and I love inspiring them and learning from them and using everything I've learned through sport into my practices as a teacher in the classroom." – Megan Cyr
That door is in Calgary where Cyr is currently completing her education degree at Ambrose University. She's also on the school's women's volleyball team's coaching staff.
Whether it's through coaching or teaching, Cyr is eager to have the opportunity to work with young people and show them that things often have a way of working out for the best.
"I just love kids and I love inspiring them and learning from them and using everything I've learned through sport into my practices as a teacher in the classroom. I think the biggest thing I learned was I learned best, and I played my best in environments that were safe, where I felt seen and heard and known as a person and I think the same goes for the classroom," she said.
"That's the kind of classroom I want to have."
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.