Canadians Glenn Hoag and Dan Lewis chase Champion League volleyball title with Bled, Slovenia this weekend

OTTAWA- Canadian men’s national team head coach Glenn Hoag of Gatineau, Que., (far right in picture) put his ACH Volley Bled (Slovenia) squad through its final drills on Friday for the men’s volleyball Champions League Final Four tournament set for this Saturday and Sunday in Lodz, Poland.

The Champions League is a five month tournament that determines the top professional volleyball squad in Europe. More than 35 Canadians played men’s pro volleyball overseas this past winter including 14 national team members.

Bled, which also includes Canadian national team player, Dan Lewis of Oakville, Ont., plays its semifinal match on Saturday against defending champions Trentino, Italy while the other semi pits Moscow Dynamo vs host Belchatow, Poland. The winners face-off for the gold on Sunday while the losers battle for bronze.

Hoag was named head coach of Canada’s national team in 2006 and has coached Bled during the winter months since 2008. This is the first time in its history that Bled has gone to the Champions League Final Four.

“Trentino is probably the number-one team club in the world right now,” Hoag told the Slovenian news agency Siol today . “The key for us is to stick to our game plan and be patient. Being here is something special and there is definitely pressure. But that can only be solved if we focus on our game.”

The 33-year-old Lewis has been a powerful force for Bled playing the all important libero position. The libero is essentially the captain of team defence, and is responsible for organizing the other players on the court in serve-reception and during regular play.

Bled opened the Champions League tournament going 3-3 in round robin play to finish in second place in its pool. In the opening playoff round, Hoag’s troops registered two dramatic five-set victories over Macerata, Italy

The quarterfinal versus Innsbruck, Austria was even more exciting as it went down to golden set tie breaker after each team registered a 3-1 set victories. Bled won the extra set 15-10.

“I see the Final Four as a valuable learning opportunity for my young team,” added Hoag at a news conference Friday.  “We already caused some major upsets during the previous stages of the competition and we have come to Poland to try to perform again at our best”.

Both Trentino and Moscow went 4-2 in the round robin and were undefeated in their respective four playoff matches. Belchatow went 5-1 in the round robin and was awarded a final four berth as hosts.

This weekend’s matches can be viewed live on-line at http://www.laola1.tv/    Pictures can be downloaded at: http://www.eventolive.it/ciclmen2010/

On Saturday, the Belchatow- Moscow semifinal is at 9:30 a.m. (EDT) and the Bled-Trentino match follows at 12:30 p.m. On Sunday, the bronze medal match is at 5:30 a.m. and the championship match at 8:30 a.m.

The 13,000 seat Atlas Arena is sold out for all four matches.