Four years ago Canada failed to get out of the first round, winning just one of its three matches and finishing in the bottom rung of the tournament. In 2014, Canada arrived in Poland with heightened expectations and played to the last day of round two matches, with a chance to make the leap to be among the six best men’s volleyball nations in the world.
Canada won six of its nine contests but bowed out after losing the final round two qualification spot to Germany after a 3-0 loss on Sunday. Its other two defeats came against top volleyball nations Russia and Brazil.
The most impressive victory of the tournament was a five-sets win over Bulgaria – ranked eighth in the world – where Canada came back down a set twice before taking the fifth 15-8. Canada came in to the tourney ranked 15th.
Canada’s Gavin Schmitt in red (photo via FIVB)
“We’re not necessarily great at all things, but as a group when we are able to fight, we come up with a winning performance,” head coach Glenn Hoag said following the game.
The Bulgaria win was especially significant as Canada had just lost to Russia in its World Championship opener and was in risk of going 0-2. Instead, Canada engineered six straight wins over two rounds after the Russian defeat.
Following its Bulgaria triumph Canada beat Egypt, Mexico and China – all in straight sets. In the second round Cuba was dispatched in five sets before the Canadians blanked Finland. However, the closing games of the round against undefeated Brazil and the decisive Germany match proved out of reach.
The Canadians turned heads keeping it tight against Brazil, especially the second and third sets, the latter ending with this incredible point rally:
“Obviously, we didn’t show that we are quite there yet – losing to Russia, Brazil and Germany – but we beat some good teams and we showed a pretty high level,” team captain Fred Winters reflected on Sunday.
The World Championship final six sees France, Germany and Iran in one group, with Brazil, Poland and Russia in the other. Top two teams in each group will head to the semifinals.
Canadian women’s volleyball team will also look to improve from its winless 2010 performance. That World Championship gets underway in Italy on September 23.
All photos via FIVB