Canada overcomes inexperience in opening win at U21 men’s championship
Canada’s youngest players contributed to their encouraging 3-0 (25-12, 25-18, 25-15) win against Guatemala that wrapped the first day of the U21 NORCECA Men’s Continental Championship.
Eric Loeppky, one of the Canada’s three 17-year-olds, had a game-high 12 points (seven kills on 11 attacks, four aces and one block). Seventeen-year-old Sharone Vernon-Evans added 10 (seven kills on 10 attacks). Erik Diaz Flores led Guatemala with eight points (all on kills, from 15 attacks).
“We just wanted to play Canada volleyball,” said Canada captain Matthew Mawdsley, a six-foot-11 middle blocker who scored eight points. “They could be the best team in the world; they could be the worst team, but we just want to do what we can. We’re happy with how we did.
“Now that we are used to the environment and used to this stage, every aspect should go up for us,” Mawdsley added. “Our passing, everything. We are looking forward to it.”
Canada, with an average height of 195 cm, is the tournament’s second-tallest team while Guatemala (181 cm) is tied for the shortest. That disparity made for some unique challenges at the net.
“For most of them, it was their first international match,” Canada coach Gino Brousseau said. “Six guys were playing high school last year, so they were nervous, not knowing what to expect. I’m happy we won. Everybody played.”
Several of Guatemala’s starters will also be on the country’s roster for the Central American U23 championship in a few weeks. Outside hitter Wagner Chacon, who had six points, had some nice moments hitting around looming Canadian blockers.
“We are excited because we know that Canada is a big team, a major team,” Diaz Flores said.
Midway through the final set, Guatemala trailed only 14-11. Vernon-Evans served one of his two aces to start a mini 4-0 run.
“For us, it’s important just to be in this event,” Guatemala coach Reider Lucas said. “We have to take this opportunity to get better. In the beginning of the game we were nervous. During the game we were getting comfortable. We will get more comfortable.”
In Group B play, Guatemala (0-1) faces Cuba (1-0) at , while Canada (1-0) faces Trinidad and Tobago (0-1) in the late game.
In group A, Barbados faces St. Vincent at on July 06.