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Canadian volleyball player Alexa Gray hopeful of memorable year — one that might include Olympics

Entering her eighth season with the Canadian women's volleyball team, outside hitter Alexa Gray is primed for what could be her most memorable year yet. 

After coming just short of earning a berth to this summer's Olympics at last September's qualifying tournament, Canada is still in contention for one of five remaining spots in Paris due to their FIVB World Ranking (they're currently No. 11). 

A good showing at the prestigious Volleyball Nations League over the next six weeks and Canada just might make it back to the Olympics for the first time since 1996 in Atlanta.

Gray, a 29-year-old native of Lethbridge, Alta., comes from an athletically gifted family. Her father Evric and late mother Stacey were NCAA basketball players and her sister, Jordan, who's 13 months older, was a Tokyo 2020 Olympian for the U.S., in Rugby 7s. 

A multi-sport athlete growing up in her formative teenage years in Calgary, Gray juggled basketball, volleyball and track (don't ask her one year of "terrifying" rugby) until she settled on volleyball. 

After six seasons of playing pro in Italy, she took her talents to Istanbul, Turkey, where she played this past year for 28-time league champions, Eczacıbaşı Dynavit. 

Gray, Canada's captain, was the team's top scorer last season in Volleyball Nations League (VNL) and fifth overall in the 16-team tournament.  

She spoke with CBC Sports this week from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil ahead Canada's Volleyball Nations League game tonight against the host country, which is being streamed live on at 8 p.m. ET

This interview has been edited for length and clarity:

You're about to embark on a high-pressure season, with a potential Olympic berth on the line, how are you feeling?

Gray: I'm obviously