Canada faces big challenge to make second round at men’s world volleyball championships
By Ted Graham in Siestre, Italy
TRIESTE, Italy- In a city where epic stories have been written, can Canada’s men’s volleyball team author their own story - one where they cheat death?
On Saturday, September 25th the Canadians start pool play at the men’s world volleyball championships as underdogs to advance to the second round.
The first match against Poland (ranked #6 in the world) kicks off the “pool of death” - so named because it contains the most top-ranked teams in a single four-team pool including Serbia (#4) and Germany (#11). Canada is currently ranked 20th in the world using a complicated formula that takes into account international results and level of competition.
The World Championships, like soccer’s World Cup, takes place every four years and is arguably the best arbiter of volleyball’s global titans - even more than the Olympics as it showcases the top 24 ranked teams in the globe (as opposed to the narrow 12-team Olympic field).
The top three teams from each pool advance to the second round starting September 30th and then continue winnowing down to a third round and semi-finals with the eventual championship final capping off in Rome on October 10.
Poland, Canada’s first opponent, finished second at the 2006 World Championships in Tokyo and their squad of veritable giants (average height is almost 6’8” compared to Canada’s 6’5”) will be heavily favoured going into Saturday evening. Poland also has 10 players with World Championship experience under their belts.
Canada’s best chance to advance to the second round will likely come in their last pool play match on Monday, September 27 when they face Germany.
“We need to be a bit more ‘delinquent’ against these teams,” said Dan Lewis, Libero for Canada and a three-time veteran of World Championships. “The polite Canadian attitude needs to be put on the back burner.”
“We need to have the killer instinct when we’re at 20-20 in a game with these top teams so that we can sneak in an uppercut and knock out the champ,” added Lewis.
The team is hoping for peak performance coming off a domestic tour against Cuba where they kept it close and even managed one win against the eighth ranked team over the three match series. Unfortunately they also faced a rough ride against an underrated team from the Czech Republic who swept them during a tour last week.
This is one of the youngest teams fielded by Canada at a World Championship. “We have only four players with World Championship experience” says head coach Glenn Hoag. “The younger guys will see the speed at which the game is played at this level.”
Hoag himself has a history of success having been a member of the Olympic team that finished just out of the medals in Los Angeles in 1984 and having coached numerous pro teams to European titles over the last decade.
Canada plays at 11 am EST on September 25, 26 and 27. Canadian fans can follow the teams progress at www.volleyball.ca as well as view live scoring at www.fivb.com
Canadian team roster for the 2010 FIVB Men’s World Volleyball Championships
Players: Dallas Soonias, Red Deer, Alta.; Adam Simac, Ottawa; Louis-Pierre Mainville, Notre-Dame de l’Isle, Que.; Dan Lewis, Oakville, Ont.; Nicolas Cundy, Edmonton; Toon Van Lankvelt, Rivers, Man.; Frederic Winters, Victoria; Gavin Schmitt, Saskatoon; Adam Kaminski, Chatham, Ont.; Dustin Schneider, Brandon, Man.; Josh Howatson, Victoria; Olivier Faucher of Plessisville, Que.; Gord Perrin, Creston, B.C.; Justin Duff, Winnipeg.
Head coach: Glenn Hoag, Gatineau, Que.
Assistant coach: Vincent Pichette, Gatineau
Team manager: Julien Boucher, Quebec City