After dropping the first two sets against Cuba, the Canadian men’s team refused to quit, winning the next three sets to defeat the Cubans 3-2 (22-25, 22-25, 25-12, 25-21,15-9) in day two of the NORCECA Men’s Tokyo Qualification Tournament in Vancouver, BC.
With the victory, the Canadian men sit 2-0 in the tournament and are the only undefeated team.
“There’s no word for this game,” said team veteran Nicholas Hoag (Sherbrooke, QC) after the match. “We focused in on our game plan because there were some specific things we had to do and we executed it really well. We had to stay aggressive and we got the win in the end.”
He continued, “The crowd helped us so much. It was a crucial part of our win. Mentally, it’s hard to fight after being down two sets to zero. It’s one of the best crowds I’ve had in Canada.”
Head coach Glenn Hoag also spoke after the victory, “We were controlling the match from a defensive perspective. Our offense was struggling and scoring – they were playing well.”
“We started playing a little smarter after the first two sets. We played a lot of short ball because they’re good blockers. Our serving was really good and we started mixing up our attack. It was a team effort.”
For the second day in a row, Stephen Maar (Aurora, ON) led the way for Canada, collecting 21 points. Behind Maar, Ryan Sclater (Port Coquitlam, BC) had a big game with 20 points, with Hoag coming in third with 11.
The Canadians currently sit in first place in the tournament, with everyone having one game remaining. They’ll face Puerto Rico on Sunday, January 12, who currently sit 1-1 after being swept by Cuba and then sweeping Mexico.
“We’re not done. We don’t have our ticket to Tokyo,” said Nick Hoag. “Puerto Rico is playing well; they beat Mexico in straight sets. We’re going to go stretch, eat, get some rest and be ready for tomorrow.”
Coach Hoag reiterated that the Canadian men are going to be ready for their final match, “We’re going to have a good preparation for Puerto Rico. We have a lot of fresh guys. We have an early match, we’re going to go rest and be ready for tomorrow.”
The game will be at 4 pm PST on Sunday, and can be streamed on CBC.
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Meanwhile The Canadian women fell to host Dominican Republic in a 3-1 match (25-13, 21-25, 25-19, 25-14) on the second day of the NORCECA Women’s Tokyo Qualification Tournament. The Canadian team is now 0-2 in the tournament.
Following the match, both team captain Kyla Richey (Roberts Creek, BC) and head coach Thomas Black touched on what happened in the critical game.
“It’s simple. Dominican played a great game,” said Richey. “There were situations we couldn’t overcome.”
Black said, “We failed in our reception and when you don’t receive well, you can’t attack well.”
Alexa Gray (Calgary, AB) led the way for the Canadians with 17 points, followed by Kiera Van Ryk (Surrey, BC) with 12 and Jennifer Cross (Scarborough, ON) with 10.
The Canadians will play their final match on Sunday, January 12 versus Mexico, while Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic will face each other for the Olympic berth.