Canada evens pre-world championships series vs Cuba at 1-1

KANATA, Ont. – Gavin Schmitt of Saskatoon scored match point on a service ace as the Canadian men's national volleyball team defeated Cuba 25-23, 25-22, 26-28, 28-26 on Thursday in the second match of a three-game series between the two world championship-bound teams at ScotiaBank Place.

With the victory, Canada evens the series at 1-1.  Cuba won the opener Tuesday in Mississauga in straight sets. The third match is Saturday night at Universite Laval in Quebec City.

“I was trying to get angry,” said Schmitt about setting up for his last serve. “They were getting real aggressive with us at the net. I was just trying to make it difficult for them because we needed to do something after a tough third set.”

The third set was the most memorable of the match. Canada went on a six-point run to build a 16-8 lead and the match appeared to be all but over when the Canadians moved into a 24-20 lead. However the home team squandered match point six times in what potentially could have been a very demoralizing momentum swing for Canada.

“I was pretty proud on how we rebounded in the fourth,” said Canadian setter Josh Howatson of Victoria. “We just stayed with what we were doing and had confidence in our system. It’s huge for us and we really needed to build that confidence up. But this series is not so much about winning and losing but getting better."

The fourth set was in fact similar to the opening two. The score was always close but Canada continually maintained the lead throughout and never wavered when the Cubans seemed ready for the kill.

“The win is important because we beat a very good team,” said Canadian national team coach Glenn Hoag of Gatineau, Que. “It’s a good way to measeure where we stand. We still have a lot of work to do but this is a very satisfying victory.”

Hoag is pleased with how the players are reacting to his system

“Our objectives is to continue playing in our system which focuses on attacking at the net and to keep ing a lot of pressure on the defence. It’s a hard system, requires a lot of concentration and our guys made a great effort tonight.”

Both squads are tuning for the FIVB World Championships set for September 25 to October 10 in six cities in Italy. The Cubans are currently ranked eighth in the world while Canada sits at number-20. Canada was 11th at the last worlds in 2006 worlds Cuba was 15th.