CALGARY, – Canada beat Cuba 3-0 (26-24, 25-19, 25-21) for the second successive night to open its 2015 World League campaign on a positive note. Saskatoon’s Gavin Schmitt again led scoring, this time with 19 points, while Cuba’s captain Rolando Cepeda Abreu was the top scorer for the visitors with 14.
Despite strong blocking from Felix Emilio Chapman Pinerio and Cepeda Abreu, six first-set points from opposite Schmitt and four from Graham Vigrass – in front of 3500 of his hometown fans – helped the hosts to a 26-24 set victory.
Canadian setter TJ Sanders scored the opening two points of the second set and after Schmitt’s third ace of the evening, Canada led 9-6. Cuba’s blocking remained strong, but as Schmitt worked his way to 12 points for the set, Canada took the second 25-19.
“There were some good things today; (setter) TJ did a better job – we started a bit slow and tentative in our setting at the beginning,” said Canada’s coach Glenn Hoag. “But then we got more relaxed, and our serving was also better today. …. We were patient and played some good block defense.”
The early stages of the third were punctuated by a terrific rally, but after two Toontje Van Lankvelt aces, Canada led 7-2. The home team had an advantage throughout the set, and despite a valiant effort from the Cubans, Schmitt scored the final point of the match for the second successive night, giving Canada a 3-0 (26-24, 25-19. 25-21) win. On Saturday night, Canada won 3-0 (25-20, 25-19, 26-24).
Said Canada’s Gordon Perrin: “It feels good – usually when we get back (from our pro seasons), the first games are sometimes played on the fly. It’s good to get two 3-0 wins, because that’s not what usually happens in the first leg of World League – usually you split because both teams are a little rusty, but we escaped with two big wins and it’s starting to come together.
“We play them next week in Detroit and the stakes are even higher because it’s for a berth at World Cup, which is the first Olympic qualification,” said Perrin, who contributed 12 points tonight.
The Cubans weren’t as pleased with their effort: “Our team is young and we don’t have that competitive fire yet to play and win. As we go along, we’re going to get more experience,” said Cuba’s captain Rolando Cepeda Abreu.
The teams will face each other again May 21 to 23 in Detroit in the hopes of qualifying for the World Cup. Canada will continue with home World League stops in Halifax and Summerside, PEI.
World League Roster
Dustin Schneider, Brandon, MB
Graham Vigrass, Calgary, AB
Gavin Schmitt, Saskatoon, SK
Gord Perrin, Creston, BC
Toon Van Lankvelt, Rivers, MB
Frederic Winters, Victoria, BC
Steven Marshall, Abbotsford, BC
TJ Sanders, London, ON
Rudy Verhoeff, Calgary, AB
Nicholas Hoag, Sherbrooke, QC
Dan Lewis, Oakville, ON
Adam Simac, Ottawa, ON
Josh Howatson, Victoria, BC
Justin Duff, Winnipeg, MB
Glenn Hoag, Head Coach
Vincent Pichette, Assistant Coach
Larry McKay, Assistant Coach
Mathieu Seguin, Physiotherapist
Julien Boucher, High Performance Director
Murat Haktanir, Statistician