Canada resets for prestigious FIVB World League tournament

TORONTO (May 17, 2012)– Canada’s national men’s volleyball team won’t be going to the Olympics but it will be at the next best tournament in the sport – the 16-country FIVB World League– which gets underway on Friday (May 18) and continues through to Sunday (May 20) at the Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto.

Now in its 23rd year, the World League is an intercontinental tournament that takes place every summer, reaching all corners of the planet, offering worldwide TV coverage and the biggest cash prizes in the sport.

Canada is in a tough pool with world number-one Brazil, number-four Poland – both countries are London bound – and Finland which stands at number-27.  Canada is at number-18.  The three other pools in the tournament also get underway this week.

‘’The guys are pretty excited about the tournament,’’ said Canada’s veteran Libero Dan Lewis of Oakville, Ont.  ‘’We got three other great teams here and we have to keep fine-tuning our game to close the gap on the top-five in the world.’’

Last week, Canada competed at the NORCECA Olympic qualifier in Long Beach, California and lost in the final to defending Games champion the U.S.  Only the tournament winner earned a ticket to the Games.

‘’We’re really disappointed how the Olympic qualifier finished and it’s been a bit hard to get our refocus here,’’ said Lewis.  ‘’But there were a lot of good things that happened there and we have to build on those.‘’

‘’We’re continuing what we started building six years ago,’’ added Canadian attacker Gavin Schmitt of Saskatoon.  ‘’Just because the Olympic cycle is over it doesn’t mean it has to be a new chapter.  There are a lot of guys who are going to stick around so we are going to keep working and building together.’’

At the qualifier, the Canadians showed they are a country on the rise as they defeated world number-five Cuba and world number-17 Puerto Rico twice.  Last year, Canada earned its spot in the World League for the first time in five years, again with two wins over Puerto Rico and a victory over Slovakia.

‘’The World League is a great opportunity for us,’’ said Canada’s head coach Glenn Hoag of Gatineau, Que.  ‘’I really like the pool we are in.  This is exactly what we need right now.  We need to play these strong teams.’’

Brazil’s head coach Bernardinho (Bernardo Rocha de Rezende) sees the Canadians as a potential dark horse in this tournament.

‘’Canada is a very dangerous team,” he said. “First, they have an excellent coach in Glenn Hoag, and they play very well tactically. They are doing very good rebuilding work and are sometimes overshadowed by the fact that they have to play such strong teams in their region – such as the United States and Cuba – but they are a smart team.”

The schedule for the World League Toronto stop is as follows:  on Friday, Canada vs Finland at 4 p.m. and Brazil vs Poland at 8 p.m. ; on Saturday, Canada vs Brazil at 4 p.m. and Poland vs Finland at 8 p.m.; and on Sunday, Brazil vs Finland at 4 p.m. and Canada vs Poland at 8 p.m.

The Canada-Brazil match on Saturday will be carried live on CBC-TV while Sportsnet One will provide live coverage of the Canada-Poland match Sunday evening.  Sportsnet One will have the Canada-Finland match on tape delay Friday at 11 p.m.

After Toronto, the four teams will face off in Katowice, Poland, on June 1, 2 and 3. The third stage will be in Sao Bernardo do Campo, Brazil, on June 8, 9 and 10, while the fourth stage will be held in Tampere, Finland, on June 15, 16 and 17. The Finals will take place July 4-8 in Sofia, Bulgaria.

At the same time as the World League this weekend, the Canadian Open Championships are being held next door to the Ricoh Centre at the Direct Energy Centre and has attracted about 10,000 players, coaches and officials from across Canada with national titles in various age groups on the line for men and women.  It is the largest volleyball event in Canadian history.

Notes: This is Canada’s sixth World League appearance and first since 2007.  Its best finish was seventh in 1992… Brazil has won the most World League titles at nine including seven of the last nine and has participated in all previous 22 editions….  Finland is making its eighth WL appearance and Poland its 15thRussia is the defending champion beating Brazil in the final.  Poland was third, its first ever WL medal… Canada is 2-10 against Brazil in WL play, 1-3 vs Finland and has never played PolandCanada lost to Poland at the 2010 world championships.

Tickets: can be purchased before the event or can be obtained at the door.  For more information: visit http://www.volleyball.ca/content/world-league-2012-0.