By Jackie Skender
Just two teams from Cuba stand in the way of Canada and a second Olympic berth in men’s beach volleyball after the two Canadian teams knocked off Puerto Rico 3-0 at the NORCECA Continental Cup in Guaymas, Mexico.
After easily getting past the U.S. Virgin Islands on Thursday, Canada had a bit of a sterner test against Puerto Rico in the semifinals on Saturday but still managed to come away with three straight wins to take the best-of-five series and put them close to having a second team that will join Chaim Schalk and Ben Saxton in Rio.
Grant O’Gorman of Scarborough, Ont., and Sam Pedlow of Barrie, Ont. opened the day with a straight-sets win over veteran Hector Soto and Kevin Rodriguez (21-18, 21-13) in the first match of the morning.
Josh Binstock and Sam Schachter, both from Richmond Hill, Ont., took a much closer second match that was still over in two sets (21-18, 21-19) against Fernando Morales and Juan Ribas.
O’Gorman and Pedlow then were back in action early in the afternoon and finished off Puerto Rico with a straight sets win (21-17, 21-18) over Morales and Ribas.
“Serving and passing were the keys to winning today. We had great serve pressure, which helped to create several aces and prevented the Puerto Ricans from getting into rhythm passing,” said Canada’s beach head coach, Steve Anderson. “Everyone is looking forward to tomorrow’s final and the boys are committed to leaving it all on the court.”
Canada will play the Cuban teams of Sergio Gonzalez/Nivaldo Diaz and Karell Peña/Daisell Quesada in the finals on Sunday. Cuba knocked off Mexico in straight matches on Saturday.
The country that wins this competition earns a single berth for their nation at the 2016 Olympic Games while the second and third placed finishers have one final chance at the FIVB World Continental Cup competition.
Canada has had two teams entered in men’s Olympic volleyball once previously in 2000 in Sydney, Australia. Two women’s teams have already qualified for Canada – a first for Canadian volleyball.
If Canada claims a second berth in Rio, the two teams would have a one-match playoff for the Olympic berth. It would also be the first time Canada had the full quota of teams at the Olympics.