Saint Lucian middle blocker Julian Bissette had two reasonably strong games over the weekend, but his club team split the two, falling out of contention for the Greek League Cup. MENT beat Aris 3-1 on Friday, but lost to PAOK 0-3 on Saturday, with the tall Caribbean import starting both games and ranking among the team leaders on both sides of the ball.
But he insists that he and his team can do better.
Julian, 23 years old and a Babonneau native, had 10 points as MENT overcame a first-set reversal 26-28 to beat Aris in just under two hours. The men from Thessaloniki beat Aris 26-24, 25-17 and 25-16 in the last three sets. On Saturday, although MENT lost in three to one of the top teams in Greece, the final set stretched to 42 minutes, going 32-34, and Julian contributed 14 points.
“I had a good game,” Julian acknowledged, speaking after the tough loss on Saturday. “But it was not good enough. PAOK is ranked in the top two teams in Greece this year – they are good. But our goal is to remain in the first division and be competitive. Our coach knows what we need to do, and we are working towards achieving our team goals and our personal goals.”
Next week, MENT get their Greek Volley League campaign underway against Panathinaikos, the first time they’ve played in the top division of the Greece Hellenic League structure in years. Julian says he is adjusting well to the speed of the game in Greece, not mention the language and culture. He feels that from a playing perspective, he was well prepared for the move.
“They play really fast here and they play the balls low,” he explained. “So I’m trying to adjust to this style here on blocking and attack. But my fitness is very good since I practiced beach with Coach Cafe [a Brazilian coach who has been working with the Saint Lucia national team], and I have the ability to jump and move fast, so the level is not difficult. It’s just about being consistent every game.”
Having played with some success over the past four years on the NORCECA Beach Tour with long-time partner Joseph Clercent, Julian opines, has also been of immense benefit to him. “That was a big help,” he says, “especially with my physical to allow me to have a great physical appearance when am attacking or blocking.”
From a cultural standpoint, Julian says all is well. “The culture here in Thessaloniki is pretty much a relaxed one; everyone is so relaxed and laid back here.” At least, off the court! On his way to set up his Greek phone number, he points out that Greek “is a difficult language” but he quickly adds that he is “trying to learn some sentences.”
Julian also has expressed his desire to pave the way for future Saint Lucian professionals to follow in the footsteps of himself and national captain, Jason Octave, who has had various stints internationally. “If the players are tall and have good athletic ability, they can make it,” he stresses. “I hope I open the door for other guys in Saint Lucia. I’ve only been here a few weeks, but now everyone wants to know Saint Lucia.”