Bulgaria and Canada battled, but it was the Bulgarian side earning the 3-1 (23-25, 27-25, 25-21, 25-21) win on the last day of first-round action in the FIVB World Championship at Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Centre on Thursday.

Bulgaria advances and Canada finishes fifth (1 win, 4 losses) in the pool. Italy won the pool, followed by China and Turkey, with the top four teams advancing. Cuba finished last the pool with no wins.

In today’s fight to advance, Bulgaria was led by Gergana and Nasya Dimitrova, who both had 17 points, with Nasya’s total including three aces. Canada’s top scorers were Autumn Bailey and Kiera Van Ryk, who each scored 18 points with both picking up four aces. Emily Maglio’s 12 points included six blocking points.

The two teams were well matched (Bulgaria is ranked 17th in the world; Canada currently 19th). Both had seven blocking points and eight service points. Canada had 20 errors to Bulgaria’s 22. Canada ended the first round 1-4, while Bulgaria finished 2-3.

Canada started the first set with two aces and ended it with another, to win the first. In the second, however, Canada suffered a loss when setter Megan Cyr was helped off the court after twisting her ankle and was unable to continue the match.

“For sure today we lost a big chance, especially on closing points. Losing our setter made a big difference,” said Canada’s head coach Marcello Abbondanza. “We have some young players and we made some wrong choices.”

Canada’s captain Kyla Richey had also hoped for more today: “Our goal for this World Championship was to advance to the second round and we’re extremely disappointed we didn’t do that. Yesterday (win over Cuba) and today were really important, and we couldn’t finish and get to the second round, so we’re really disappointed.”

It’s hard to even reflect on this match specifically because we came into this tournament expecting to advance… We took big steps this summer and our European trip was so valuable to us. …. Our players have always been top level, but we need to find a way to convert these games we should be winning into official wins moving forward.”

The second round of the Worlds will be held in Nagoya and Osaka, Japan, and includes 16 teams split into two pools. The FIVB has Canada’s final ranking as 18 out of 24 teams.