Serbia beat Canada 3-2 (25-17, 24-26, 25-21, 26-28,15-12) in the tie-break set to finish off the second weekend of the 2019 FIVB Volleyball Nations League (VNL) at the Arena at TD Place in Ottawa.

Canada was aiming for a record five consecutive wins in VNL, and their first win against Serbia at a major event since the 2010 World Championships, but the European team took advantage of its opponent’s 41 errors to deprive them of a perfect weekend on home court.

Canada’s top scorer Sharone Vernon-Evans once again led the offense with 24 points while Gordon Perrin added 17. Dusan Petkovic and Milan Katic contributed 18 and 14 points for the winners, respectively.

Serbia and Canada played evenly during the first set, but the European team led 16-13 at the second technical timeout. With Milan Katic serving, Serbia scored three consecutive points and went on to take the opening set 25-17.

Serbia kept the momentum in the second set. Petar Krsmanovic and Dusan Petkovic inflicted damage form the serve line and put Serbia 8-4 in front. Jason Derocco’s solid attacks kept Canada in contention. Serbia stayed ahead 16-12, but the host team kept the pressure. Out in the first set, Sharone Vernon-Evans came back strong and an attack error by Serbia led to a tie at 23. Vernon-Evans launched a powerful serve and Gordon Perrin and Arthur Szwarc blocked their opponents to take the second set 26-24 and even the match.

In the third set, Serbia continued to play smart and hard to take a 8-6 lead and 16-12 at the technical timeouts. Canada came within two points 19-21, but their rivals kept their composure and managed to take the third set 25-21.

Determined to avoid a third consecutive tie-break in Ottawa, Serbia kept their on-court inspiration, but Canada never gave up. The home team tied at 9 points. Gordon Perrin and Nicholas Hoag led the Canadian offense to give them a narrow 16-15 lead at the second timeout. An ace by substitute Bozidar Vucicevic put Serbia in the lead 19-18, but Vernon-Evans responded to keep the game even.

The European squad capitalized on Canada’s various serving errors and served for a match point 24-23. Vernon-Evans kept Canada alive with strong spikes. With the set tied at 26, Graham Vigrass caused damage from his serve and Arthur Szwarc sealed the 28-26 victory with a strong spike from the centre of the net.

In the decisive tie-breaker, Serbia’s third in as many days in Ottawa, the Europeans came out aggressively and took a 7-4 lead. Vernon-Evans narrowed the gap to 9-11, but Serbia maintained a solid play to take the 15-12 and with it their second win in Ottawa.

“We are a bit disappointed with the loss but we tried hard, some of the players we’re pretty tired. Serbia served really well so it was really hard for us. We came back in the fifth set and got a point, so that’s positive for us. The style of play is important and we did some good things. Today our blocking wasn’t working so well, which is a sign of fatigue. Every match prepares us for our future objectives,” said Glenn Hoag, Canada’s head coach.

“Serbia played well, they served very aggressively at the start which got us out of our side-out game. It was a good game for the fans; both Serbia and Canada. You could notice that we were a little bit tired. It’s the third game and we couldn’t find our level. We took a step backwards, but we’ll find it and move forward to Iran,” commented Gordon Perrin, the team captain.

“We’re still building on the court since we’ve only had a couple days together as a team after our professional seasons, so we’re trying to come together on the court in front of everyone. It’s not always pretty but by the time we arrive in August for the Olympic qualifier we’ll be playing our best,” he added.

Canada will travel to Iran for the third weekend of VNL, where they will play Poland, Russia and the host country.

At the conclusion of the five-week pool play on June 30, the top five of the 16-nation tournament and hosts the United States will play the VNL Final in Chicago July 10-14.

VNL Ottawa
CAN vs AUS  3-0 (25-23, 25-17, 25-18)
CAN vs GER 3-2 (23-25, 29-27, 25-18, 23-25, 15-12)
SRB vs CAN 3-2 (25-17, 24-26, 25-21, 26-28,15-12)

The following athletes were on the roster for the Ottawa VNL weekend:

T.J. Sanders, London, ON
Gordon Perrin, Creston, BC (Team Captain)
Steven Marshall, Abbotsford, BC
Nicholas Hoag, Sherbrooke, QC
Justin Duff, Winnipeg, MB
Stephen Maar, Aurora, ON
Jason DeRocco, Winnipeg, MB
Sharone Vernon-Evans, Scarborough, ON
Lucas VanBerkel, Edmonton, AB
Ryan Sclater, Port Coquitlam, BC
Graham Vigrass, Calgary, AB
Blair Bann, Edmonton, AB
Arthur Szwarc, Toronto, ON
Brett Walsh, Calgary, AB