Cannon felt the pressure of the partnership the moment she agreed to team with an Olympian and maybe the best defensive player in the United States. That pressure came not from Sponcil, but from herself. After a year of grinding it out in country quotas and one-star events, Cannon had paid her dues.
Was she ready?
“Sarah has performed so well on a global stage and I never have. I thought ‘I can’t mess this up.’ It was cool,” Cannon said. “We were talking in November, December, when we first were talking about maybe playing together. There are a lot of things to discuss when making these moves because you want to make sure things mesh well on the court and off the court and we’d played well before but was a couple years ago and a lot of things changed, I feel like a different person and a different player. We played in two tournaments together, had a blast, then didn’t hang out again. Not in a bad way. I was really excited. Really nervous. This was something I wanted to make happen, I just wasn’t totally sure if I could.”
It’s fair for Cannon to ask those questions of herself. Who in their right mind would have predicted a girl from Rochester, New York, would walk on at USC, win several NCAA Championships — then rise to the No. 2 team in the United States, win medals of every color on the World Tour, and win an AVP, in one of its most iconic locations?
“T’s story is pretty incredible: Growing up in Rochester, went to USC, grinded her butt off for five years, she’s so coachable, works really hard, and I love it,” Sponcil said. “I know that she put in so much work doing the international tournaments and things weren’t going great but I knew she was a great player. I knew at the international level that you can be great, but can you still be coached? How hard are you going to work? I knew that she was a great person. I played with her for two tournaments and this girl can’t kill anything. I knew she had the work ethic, and when we got coffee, I thought his is great, I can travel with this girl, we can have some fun, and we just clicked right away. We’ve been rolling ever since.
“It’s the freedom to make mistakes, to grow, and on the macro level it’s a process, you’re going to have losses, you’re going to have wins, and you’re going to grow. That’s the main goal of sports is to reach your potential and that’s not going to happen in a day. Our society is an instant gratification society and that was really hard for me, knowing I made second on my first AVP and knowing it took me four years to get my first. That was painful, because you want it, but you have to keep going and keep going and keep going and this weekend was my time. It was enough.”
It was time for both, whose paths to this point could not have been more different: Sponcil the prodigy since high school, Cannon the quiet talent from upstate New York who had a late start to the game.
“You might not know your path,” Sponcil said, “but it always works out.”
“It’s been cool,” added Cannon. “I was just really excited about how we played. That’s why I’m most excited about it. That really felt like us on the court and if we can continue to play at that level consistently, that’s a really exciting future for us. It felt like a real team win with us, Scott [Davenport], our sports psych, so many people supporting us, so I’m really happy and really excited at the direction we’re moving. Not much has changed. I still get on my bike and go to practice every day, still go to the grocery store, there’s still more big tournaments we want to win but it’s a really cool first one and a really cool start.”