Canadian women still in contention in beach volleyball at Universiade

SHENZHEN, China (CIS) – The Canadian women are still in contention at the first-ever Universiade beach volleyball tournament held at the picturesque venue of Dameisha Seaside Park, while the last Canadian men’s team was ousted from the competition on Tuesday.

In the men’s tourney, the Canada 1 squad of Cameron Wheelan of Barrie, Ont., and Simon Fecteau-Boutin of Lévis, Que., suffered its second defeat of the double-elimination second round, losing to the Czech Republic 21-19, 21-15.

The Canada 2 duo of François-Guy Allaire of Notre-Dame-du-Laus, Que., and Michael Plantingua of Langley, B.C., had been eliminated on Monday.

“We finished the tournament with a 4-2 record. The weather was super hot but we were able to pull through it,” Wheelan said. “On an international level, I think countries are starting to take notice of Canadian teams in beach volleyball.”

On the women’s side, both Canadian pairs are still in the thick of things.

Caleigh Whitaker of Sharon, Ont., and Kristina Valjas of Toronto, who make up Canada 1, rallied from a set down to beat USA 1 by 17-21, 21-10, 15-7 in the morning match, improving their overall record to 4-0 in the process. In the afternoon however, the teammates lost for the first time this week, a 22-24, 21-19, 16-14 heartbreaker to Italy.

The Pool C first-place finishers will resume second-round play on Wednesday.

“We are in our first year as at team and we are getting better and better the more we play together,” commented Valjas.

The Canada 2 squad of Kristina Vlcek of Toronto and Becky Billings of Ottawa also lost its first match of the elimination round on Tuesday, a 23-21, 21-10 defeat to Slovakia 2 in its lone outing of the day.

“I think it is challenging at an international tournament in this kind of climate, and our athletes have worked hard to cope with the heat,” said Canadian head coach Dolphin Kasper. “They still played with the style that we trained for, which is to be aggressive and push our opponents.”