The Canadian women's rugby sevens squad looks to bounce back on home soil this weekend after a shock 11th-place finish last month in Japan.
"It was a big slice of humble pie for everybody, a good reminder of just how close the margins are in sevens," said coach John Tait. "You can't take anything for granted."
Canada's defensive structure failed in Japan, resulting in opposition tries that left Tait's team in a hole. The Canadian women failed to qualify for the Cup competition in a World Series event — essentially the quarterfinals — for the first time ever.
Canada also dropped to fifth place in the overall World Series standings. Traditionally it has been in the top three with New Zealand and Australia fighting it out for top spot.
The climb back starts Saturday in Langford, B.C., the penultimate stop on the World Series circuit.
The poor finish in Japan means Canada opens Saturday against top-ranked Australia, which won the first two events of the season in Dubai and Sydney before finishing third in Japan.
The Canadians will then face No. 6 Spain and No. 9 Ireland.
It marks just the fifth time in 22 World Series meetings that Canada and Australia have faced off in the preliminary round. Australia leads the series 13-8. The Pearls won 25-7 in their only other World Series meeting this season, the Cup semifinal in Dubai.
On the plus side, captain Ghislaine Landry is back after injuring her hamstring April 15 in the bronze-medal game at the Commonwealth Games. But Britt Benn remains out after breaking her wrist on the first day of competition April 20 in Japan.
At the Gold Coast Games, a preliminary-round 24-7 loss to New Zealand meant a tough semifinal date with host Australia. A 33-7 defeat there consigned Canada to the bronze-medal game where a last-ditch rally fell short in a painful 24-19 loss to England.
Then it was off to Japan for a World Series stop where not much went Canada's way. A win over Fiji was followed by losses to England and Russia, which relegated the Canadians to the consolation Challenge Trophy competition where they lost to Ireland before beating Japan.
The Canadians led England 19-14 with seconds remaining only to give up a late try and see the winning conversion kicked from the corner in a 21-19 loss. An Irish try in sudden-death extra time was also a bitter pill to swallow, as was a loss to Russia.
"I never felt so unlucky in my career, as a player or a coach," Tait said. "A ball would bounce — and bounce straight into the hands of an opposition runner.
"We were just so inconsistent, especially on the defensive side of the ball, places where we are normally pretty solid in our structure."
It didn't help that Landry and Benn were unavailable.
"But that's when you've got to rely on your structure even more," Tait said. "We did to a certain extent on attack. We scored enough tries every game but we just leaked so many soft tries, particularly against England, Russia and Ireland."
The Canadian women will be easy to spot on the field. They are taking part in "Colour Your Hair to Conquer Cancer," a campaign to raise funds for the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.
Sara Kaljuvee, who lost her mother in 2016 after a 10-year battle with cancer, has gone entirely pink for the occasion. The recently retired Jen Kish, a former team captain whose father is still dealing with the after-effects of colon cancer treatment, has gone silver.
Other players have opted for streaks in their hair.
The Canadian women have refocused on the Rugby Sevens World Cup in San Francisco in July after falling short at the Commonwealth Games and stumbling in the World Series.
"We're a competitive group and we believe that if we finish strongly in these last two tournaments, we'll get back up to an area that we believe represents the program — in the top three again," Tait said. "And then hopefully we'll have some momentum going into the World Cup."
Canada was runner-up to New Zealand at the 2013 World Cup Sevens in Moscow.
In the lone non-injury change to Tait's squad, Pam Buisa replaces Olivia Apps to make her World Series debut.
New Zealand, second overall in the overall standings, beat Canada 17-7 in last year's final in Langford.
Pam Buisa, Ottawa Irish, Gatineau, Que.; Caroline Crossley, Castaway Wanderers, Victoria; Hannah Darling, Peterborough Pagans, Warsaw, Ont.; Bianca Farella, Town of Mont Royal RFC, Montreal; Julia Greenshields, Sarnia Saints, Sarnia, Ont.; Sara Kaljuvee, Toronto Scottish, Ajax, Ont.; Ghislaine Landry (capt.), Toronto Scottish, Toronto; Megan Lukan, unattached, Barrie, Ont.; Kayla Moleschi, Williams Lake Rustlers, Williams Lake, B.C.; Breanne Nicholas, London St. Georges RFC, Blenheim, Ont.; Natasha Watcham-Roy, Hull Volant, Gatineau, Que.; Charity Williams, Markham Irish, Toronto.
Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter