RICHMOND, British Columbia – Canada’s senior women’s team will make history this weekend, as the 2017 FIVB World Grand Prix will take place in Canada for the first time ever, starting Friday and finishing Sunday at the Richmond Olympic Oval.
The Canadian national team, which is No. 19 in the FIVB Rankings, will host Germany (No. 13), the Czech Republic (No. 25) and Peru (No. 29) in an all-important Group 2 weekend. All four teams will participate in a round-robin format over the course of the three days.
Canada has its sights set on compiling a best-ever Grand Prix Group 2 finish. A top-five result this year would mark Canada’s most successful Group 2 campaign. Canada’s previous best Group 2 ranking was sixth overall in 2015. The national program, which enters this weekend with two wins from six contests, has never won more than two matches in any World Grand Prix. This is the third and final weekend of the Preliminary Round. The top three teams in the final Group 2 standings, along with the host Czechs, will compete in the Group 2 Finals July 29-30.
After opening the 2017 FIVB World Grand Prix with two wins in its first weekend, Canada, which has a 2-4 record and is ninth in the Group 2 standings, returns home looking to bounce back from three consecutive losses this past weekend in Puerto Rico.
Canada’s Elly Wendel enters the final weekend of the Preliminary Round with a team-leading 76 points, which has her 11th among all Group 2 scorers. Kyla Richey is second amongst Canadians in points, with 64.
Canadian middle Jennifer Cross leads the team in blocks, with 0.63 per set, while captain Lucille Charuk and Wendel aren’t far behind, each averaging 0.50 per set.
Canada’s match-ups this weekend feature a pair of familiar World Grand Prix foes, in the Czechs and Peruvians, and one entirely unfamiliar opponent, in the Germans.
Canada and the Czech Republic will renew pleasantries for the fourth time in the last two years, with the Czechs, who are 5-1 in this year’s tournament, winning the three previous World Grand Prix meetings. However, after Canada suffered a pair of three-set losses to the Czech Republic last year, this year saw Canada force the match to five sets just last Sunday. The Canadians have one win from five outings against the Czech Republic all-time across all competitions.
With Peru in Richmond this weekend, Canada will see a team they took on twice in the 2014 World Grand Prix and one the Canadians have faced more often than any other international opponent. Canada and Peru have met 13 times, with the Canadians holding a 3-10 all-time record. Historically, Canada has had Olympic success against Peru, as the 1996 Summer Games team earned a 3-2 win in Atlanta. This year’s Peruvian side features the second-leading point-getter in Group 2, with Angela Leyva sitting on 104 points coming into the weekend. Canada also beat the Peruvians recently at the women’s Pan Am Cup – a five-setter in front of the home crowd in Peru.
Meanwhile, the high-flying Germans, who boast a 5-1 record through the first two weekends, have never seen the Canadians across the net in the World Grand Prix. The last time they met on the international stage was also at the 1996 Olympic Games, with Germany winning in three sets. Canada is 1-6 all-time against Germany in international competition.
Canada’s best ever result in the World Grand Prix was in 2003 when the team finished 12th overall. That year marked the only time Canada has competed in the top group of the World Grand Prix. With an expanded format that now includes 32 teams, Canada returned to the tournament in 2014 after a 10-year hiatus.
This weekend’s event will mark history of a more local sort, with Canada hosting an international competition at the Richmond Olympic Oval for the first time since moving its Women’s National Team Training Centre to Richmond this past January.