Canada’s men’s team members kept their cool under pressure as they beat world number one ranked Brazil in the opener of phase four of the FIVB Volleyball Nations League on Friday.
“I am elated with this win today,” said Canada’s coach Stephane Antiga. “To beat Brazil for the first time since 2012, our team really proved that we can work together under pressure. We knew all the matches would be very tough moving forward, so to open the weekend with this win today is very positive. I’m very pleased with all the players, and it’s satisfying to see veterans such as Gavin Schmitt and Nick Hoag stepping up their performance against the world number 1 ranked Brazil”
Gavin Schmitt had a team-high 16 spikes from 21 attempts to guide Canada to a historic 3-0 (25-22, 34-32, 25-23) win over the 2016 Olympic champions.
Hoag was also key in today’s match with 15 points, while Stephen Maar (9 points) made a slew of clutch plays late in the third set to help Canada seal the deal.
Brazil was uncharacteristically sloppy in some areas, even with opposite Wallace de Souza scoring the match high 19 points.
It was just the fifth time Canada, currently ranked sixth in the world, has beaten Brazil at the world level in 27 attempts and ended a run of eight straight defeats. Canada has improved its record to 6-4, while it was a costly defeat for Brazil who lost for just the second time in VNL after coming into the fourth phase tied with Poland at eight wins.
Canada matched its highly-rated opponent from the first serve with little separating the teams during a tense opening set. Brazil came out firing in the second set and led 14-8 as it appeared they would level the contest, but Canada fought back impressively to ensure the set went way past 25.
With an upset in sight, Brazil came out determined in the third set and stormed out to a 10-6 lead but the memories of letting the second set slip returned with Canada coming back into the contest levelling the score at 14 apiece. The standard lifted and peaked during an exciting rally filled with spectacular hustle from Canada but ultimately won by Brazil to gain a 16-14 lead at the second technical timeout.
Canada kept fighting but was unable to get ahead as a thumping put away by de Souza put Brazil temporarily on top, but that was countered by Graham Vigrass as the match continued to follow a tense path.
A well worked set led to a put away from Maar to give Canada a 24-23 lead and within sight of a memorable victory, which was wrapped up moments later through an ace from TJ Sanders to finish in style!
Canada – who has so far played in Poland, Argentina, and Ottawa – now faces hosts Bulgaria on Saturday, while Brazil will be looking for a win against highly skilled France.
1 – TJ Sanders, London, ON (setter)
4 – Nicholas Hoag, Sherbrooke, QC (outside hitter)
5 – Lucas Van Berkel, Edmonton, AB (middle blocker)
6 – Justin Duff, Winnipeg, MB (middle blocker)
7 – Stephen Maar, Aurora, ON (outside hitter)
8 – Jay Blankenau, Sherwood Park, AB (setter)
9 – Jason DeRocco, Winnipeg, MB (outside hitter)
12 – Gavin Schmitt, Saskatoon, SK (opposite)
13 – Ryley Barnes, Edmonton, AB (outside hitter)
15 – Bryan Duquette, St. Thomas, ON (libero)
17 – Graham Vigrass, Calgary, AB (middle blocker)
18 – Bradley Gunter, Comox, BC (opposite)
19 – Blair Bann, Edmonton, AB (libero)
20 – Arthur Szwarc, Toronto, ON (middle blocker)