Curitiba, Brazil, July 8, 2017 – Canada brings home the FIVB Volleyball World League Group 1 bronze medal – its highest achievement in the history of the tournament – after coming from behind for a 3-1 (18-25, 25-20, 25-22, 25-21) win over the United States on Saturday evening.
Team Captain Gord Perrin led Canada with 13 points, but he wasn’t alone as several of his teammates had similar numbers – Sharone Vernon-Evans and Graham Vigrass contributed 12 points each, and Ryley Barnes entered the match after the first set and logged 10 points. The U.S. had the two most prolific scorers of the match as Taylor Sander and David Smith gathered 14 points apiece, followed by the 12 from both Thomas Jaeschke and Benjamin Patch.
Canada’s new coach this year, Stephane Antiga, praised his team – a mix of seasoned players and new faces – for not giving up after a poor start in the bronze medal match.
“We didn’t start well – we made a lot a mistakes and we really weren’t ready for them,” said Antiga, a former French team player and past coach of Poland. “But the players really took charge and then everyone participated in this victory – everybody played!”
This was Canada’s first year in Group 1, and its previous best finish was fifth overall in 2013. For several players in was their first World League experience ever.
“It’s the first time for me on the big stage in general, and with this team it was just amazing to be out there; and as we got closer to winning, you just felt like everyone’s moral was boosting. The end feeling was just incredible,” said the 18-year-old opposite, Sharone Vernon-Evans. “I just kept on swinging hard, and decided to put 100,000 percent in my defense and blocking today and dig as many balls as I could. “
Canada won Group 2 last year, which garnered at 13th place overall. Perennial powerhouses in volleyball – France and Brazil – faced off for gold last night, with France winning the battle in the tie-break set, quieting the estimated 23,000 fans at the Arena da Baixada stadium.
Canada is currently ranked eighth in the world ranking based on last year’s performances, which included a fifth at the Olympic Games.
“I’m just really proud right now of everyone in the program, and happy for everyone in the past that’s helped the program,” said Perrin, who was part of the 2016 Olympic squad in Rio. “It’s been the last four or five years – every year we achieve something new, and we go to somewhere we haven’t been. I’m excited to see where we can go from here; I hope we can continue to grow.”
Antiga was also obviously pleased with the outcome of the team: “This is amazing for Canada and good for our sport in the country. Now we have even more motivation to work harder. Our goal is to be better and better as a team and also develop players… When you’ve tasted this (winning a medal) you want to repeat it.”
Canadian players also won two individual awards – Graham Vigrass as one of the best middle blockers; and Blair Bann as best libero.
TJ Sanders – Setter (London, ON)
Brett Walsh – Setter (Calgary, AB)
Blair Bann – Libero (Edmonton, AB)
Steve Marshall – Libero (Abbotsford, BC)
Graham Vigrass – Middle (Calgary, AB)
Lucas Van Berkel – Middle (Edmonton, AB)
Arthur Szwarc – Middle (Toronto, ON)
Daniel Jansen VanDoorn – Middle (Langley, BC)
Jason DeRocco – Left Side (Winnipeg, MB)
Gord Perrin – Left Side (Creston, BC)
Stephen Maar – Left Side (Aurora, ON)
Ryley Barnes – Left Side (Edmonton, AB)
Sharone Vernon-Evans – Opposite (Scarborough, ON)
Nicholas Hoag – Sherbrooke, QC
Stephane Antiga, head coach
Daniel Lewis, assistant coach
Georges Laplante, assistant coach
Lionel Bonnaure, statistician
Jean-Sebastien Hartell, therapist
Melanie Desrochers, team manager