Canada takes opening match in final round of World League qualifying

KINGSTON, Ont.- Canada took the opening match of the final round of World League qualifying with a score of 3-1, 25-17, 25-22, 18-25, 25-23 to take the lead in the two-game series. Tomorrow night’s game will decide who takes part in the 2012 edition of the World League, volleyball’s richest tournament.

“It was a good win for us,” said Glenn Hoag, Head Coach of Team Canada, “Puerto Rico has a great deal of experience, they are a team that plays with a lot of heart, and they have tremendous skills. They made us play the whole time and didn’t let up. Our blocking was very good, as was our serving. Our serve reception and defense were not as good as they have been in the past few weeks, and we need to make adjustments for tomorrow’s match.”

Canada’s dominance at the net was the determining factor, with 18 stuff blocks, compared to Puerto Rico’s 9. Puerto Rico led in kills, 36-32, and service aces, 6-3.

“I’m happy with the win, especially the start,” said Canadian captain Fred Winters of Vancouver, “we need to keep the same energy throughout the game; nothing is going to be easy. Puerto Rico is a scrappy team and returned a lot of balls. I’m very confident with the way we are playing, but we know we must remain 100% focused as things are not over yet and we still have to play a match tomorrow.”

Canadian Gavin Schmitt, of Saskatoon, led all players with 30 points, including 23 kills, 5 stuff blocks and 2 service aces. Other notable Canadian performances included Toontje Van Lankvelt with 12 points, Fred Winters with 11 points, and Steve Brinkman with 10 points including 6 stuff blocks.

“I would like to congratulate Canada on their win,” said Puerto Rico Head Coach Carlos Cardona. “While we improved as the game went on. Our start was erratic, especially in hitting. Canada’s block hurt us quite a bit; tomorrow we will have to adjust.”

Victor Rivera, Puerto Rico team captain, congratulated Team Canada on the win, and added, ”they were prepared for the match and the series. We started cold, didn’t execute very well, being down 11-2 is something that never happens. We took a long time to warm up, and they had exceptional blocking. We need to dig more balls to stop their offense. It’s obvious they want to be in the World League, we had periods of good play, but not many.”

Ezequiel Cruz led Puerto Rico with 17 points while Juan Figueroa and Jose Rivera added 15 and 14 points apiece.

Canada plays Puerto Rico Sunday, August 21st, at the K-Rock Centre in Kingston in the last, and defining qualification match for the 2012 World League.