Canada to play for bronze in volleyball at Universiade

SHENZHEN, China (CIS) – Canada (5-1) was looking for a place in the gold medal game but fell short on Saturday evening losing 3-1 (27-25, 25-23, 20-25, 25-10) to Ukraine (5-1) in men’s volleyball in the semifinals at the 26th Summer Universiade.

STATISTICS: CAN vs UKR

Despite the loss, Canada will try to capture a third all-time Universiade medal in the sport (silver in 2007 and 1983). They will play Brazil (5-1) on Monday at 5:30 p.m. local time (5:30 a.m. ET) after the other semi-final result when Russia (6-0) won 3-1 (27-25, 15-25, 25-16, 27-25) over Brazilians.

Canada had won five consecutive matches before the semis and beat South Korea in a hard-fought four setter in the quarters while the Ukraine battled and prevailed over the Czech Republic in five sets in quarterfinals action. 

Canada was down two sets before summoning energy to push back and take the third set. Middle and team captain Rudy Verhoeff from Calgary was instrumental with numerous kills and blocks as Canada looked to make another comeback but to no avail. It seemed there was nothing left in the tank for the fourth as Canada tried mixing up the lineup but the Ukrainians steamed to a quick 25-10 fourth set and the match victory.

“Thought we had lots of energy after the third,” Team Canada’s and University of Winnipeg head coach Larry McKay. “We played pretty well for three sets but the Ukraine was just a little better today. I had no hesitation to put players into lineup that did not start and they brought good energy to group.” 

In the first set, Canada never held the lead while there were nine ties. The Ukrainians pushed the lead to four at 23-19 and it looked like the set was slipping away for Canada. The Red and White rode the serving of left side Karl De Grandpré of Pierreville, Que. to four straight points and played side out until the Ukrainians blocked for a 27-25 set win.

The second was a see-saw affair with setter Ciaran McGovern from Grande Prairie, Alta. subbed out for setter Jay Blankenau of Sherwood Park, Alta. at 15-10 lead for the Ukrainians before losing a close 25-23 set. 

“We played smarter in the third set and tried to limit them winning points on the block. The Ukrainians were a strong team but we got away from our game,” commented Rudy Verhoeff. “The first two sets we might have had nerves and not as much as aggression. I am disappointed but will play for bronze, not a championship, but still play for a medal.”

Right side Spencer Leiske of Lacombe, Alta. led with 13 kills, ten digs and three blocks followed by Verhoeff with ten kills and six blocks and Blankenau with 56 assists plus McGovern added 36 assists. Andrii Tupchii had a game-high 18 kills and Dmytro Babkov registered 15 kills for the winners. 

“We will try to address some of our breakdowns in our game and looking forward to playing a strong team in Brazil for bronze on Monday, ” added McKay.

The last time Canada played the Ukraine at the Universiade, Canada won 3-1 (34-36, 25-20, 25-20, 25-15) in pool play in 2009.