Louis Daignault (ISN)

June 29, 2013, Tampere, Finland, (ISN) – Canada’s national men’s volleyball team is in first spot with only two matches remaining after it completed a two match sweep of Finland on Saturday in World League action at the Tampere Ice Arena.

After a four set win on Friday Canada downed Finland again 25-23, 25-22, 25-17 to improve to six wins and two losses for 18 points for top spot in Group C. The Netherlands defeated South Korea to keep pace with the Canadians at 17 points. The Dutch can regain top spot on Sunday as they face the Koreans again.

Only the first place team in Group C advances to the final round.

“These are the two best games we have put together in a row,” said Canada captain Frederic Winters. “We beat Korea twice, but they were not the same level as Finland. We are happy to come here and win both games, and six points is huge for us. We didn’t make silly mistakes, we did not hit the ball out, we were consistent the whole way. In the first set we were not 100 percent in it, but we came and won it in the end. That energized our team and we used it for the rest of the game.”

The crowd of 3,950 saw that Finland’s blocking could not match the raw power of Canada’s left side hitter Gord Perrin who finished with 18 points, also pitching in three blocks. Right side hitter Dallas Soonias was his dangerous self and went on to make 17 points, while team captain Fred Winters contributed with twelve, and a solid reception game. Libero Daniel Lewis showed sensational positional sense, enabling him to collect a dozen good digs.

For Finland, Olli Kunnari had 12 points, and Matti Oivanen nine.

After two tight sets, Canada let loose in the third and raced to 8-2 and 16-6 leads at the technical time outs. From 18-8 on, Canada matched every single Finnish point with one of its own until getting match points at 24-15.

Canada managed to steal the first set after Finland led 8-6 and 16-14 at the technical time outs. Tall middle blocker Konstantin Shumov finished well on quick sets. Soonias started to show up after a quiet start, and together with left side hitting colleague Perrin tied the match at 23-23. A one-on-one block gave set point which Finland squandered on a three-meter line infringement, giving it to Canada 25-23.

“We were lucky to win the first set,” said Canada’s coach Glenn Hoag. “Our strength was the blocks and the defensive work of the team. We need to improve our serving, but that will come. Everybody got involved today, in all aspects. It was team work.”

“Josh Howatson did a great job coming in,” Hoag said. “He is a good setter, but his play can also enable us to take more risks. This victory might have looked easy, but you must always keep focused.”

Soonias and Perrin continued scoring in the second set, five points each, and towards the end Canada made it a three point lead. Perrin’s power and a two-man block by Howatson and Adam Simac led to a set point finished by Simac.

Winning two close sets gave the Canadians a boost, and they played with confidence racing to a 7-1-lead. The margin increased to 16-6 at the second TTO, and there was no stopping the Canadians.

Canada closes out its World League prelim schedule with two matches against Japan next weekend in Osaka.

Canada’s World League roster for matches June 28-29 in Tampere, Finland and July 6-7 in Osaka, Japan.

Players: Dustin Schneider, Brandon, Man.; Josh Howatson, Victoria; Louis-Pierre Mainville, Notre-Dame-de-l’Ile Perrot, Que.; Dallas Soonias, Red Deer, Alta.; Blair Bann, Edmonton; Fred Winters, Victoria; Gord Perrin, Creston, B.C.; Toon Van Lankvelt, River, Man.; Dan Lewis, Oakville, Ont.; Jason Derocco, East St. Paul, Man.; Rudy Verhoeff, Calgary; Justin Duff, Winnipeg; Adam Simac, Ottawa; Graham Vigrass, Calgary.

Head coach: Glenn Hoag, Gatineau, Que.

Assistant coach: Vincent Pichette, Gatineau, Que.

Team manager : Julien Boucher, Quebec City

Statistician : Murat Haktanir

Therapist: Mathieu Séguin

www.volleyball.ca and www.fivb.org