Canada beats Mexico in NORCECA Championship opener

MIYAGUEZ, Puerto Rico- Fred Winters of Victoria scored 20 points on Monday to lead Canada to a 25-21, 23-25, 27-25, 25-22 victory over Mexico to open round robin play the NORCECA (North and Central America and Caribbean) men’s volleyball championships.

The top-two teams at the eight-country week-long event earn a berth at the World Cup final November 20 to December 4 in Tokyo. The top-three teams at the World Cup final qualify for the Olympic Games.

‘’Mexico played really well but we ended up with the win which is the way you want to start this tournament,’’ said Gavin Schmitt of Saskatoon who added 12 points for the victors. ‘’There were times we got ahead of ourselves and got too focused on the result but we got the jitters out and we just want to play better in our next match.’’

Canada heads into the NORCECA tournament with a hot hand. Over the past month it defeated Slovakia and Puerto Rico in qualifying to earn a ticket to the 2012 World League volleyball tournament which offers the richest purse in the sport. The Canadians also went undefeated to win a four-country tournament in Estonia, in between their two World League qualifying series. 

Winters, earned three of his points on service aces, Alexandre Gaumont-Casias of Marieville, Que., earned 13 points and Steve Brinkman of Bowmanville, Ont., collected four of his seven points on blocks.

‘’We’ve come here with the objective to finish in the top-two,’’ said Canada’s head coach Glenn Hoag. ‘’We had a good first set tonight but didn’t play as well after that and Mexico really picked it up. We had some trouble offensively and Alexandre came in and gave us some energy.’’

Canada ranked 22nd in the world is in Group A with Puerto Rico (ranked 15th), Mexico (ranked 21st) and St. Lucia (87th). Group B is comprised of the U.S., (3rd), defending champion Cuba (6th), Trinidad and Tobago (64th) and Costa Rica (68th).

In other matches Monday, the U.S., defeated Trinidad and Tobago 25-15, 25-7, 25-12 and Cuba beat Costa Rica 25-16, 25-13, 25-15. Puerto Rico faced St. Lucia later Monday.

The first place team in each pool gets a bye to the semifinals on Friday. The second and third place teams cross over in the quarterfinals on Thursday. The placement matches are Saturday. The last time Canada stepped on the podium at the biannual tournament was in 2005 when it placed third.

Canada faces St.Lucia on Tuesday afternoon.

Canadian roster for the NORCECA men’s volleyball championships August 29 to September 3, 2011 in Miyaguez, Puerto Rico

Players: Steve Brinkman, Bowmanville, Ont.; Nicholas Cundy, Edmonton; Josh Howatson, Victoria; Dan Lewis, Oakville, Ont.; Gord Perrin, Creston, B.C.; Gavin Schmitt, Saskatoon; Dustin Schneider, Brandon, Man.; Adam Simac, Ottawa; Alexandre Gaumont-Casias, Marieville, Que.; Toon Van Lankvelt, River, Man.; Fred Winters, Victoria; Justin Duff, Winnipeg.

Head coach: Glenn Hoag, Gatineau, Que.

Assistant coach: Vincent Pichette, Gatineau

Team manager; Julien Boucher, Quebec City.

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For more information: www.volleyball.ca and www.norceca.org