Canada Starts off its World League Campaign with a Win

Calgary, Canada, May 31, 2014 – World No. 11-ranked Canada began its FIVB Volleyball World League journey Saturday night with a straight-sets (25-21, 25-19, 25-20) victory over Finland in Calgary, Alberta.

Canada capitalized on 28 Finland errors and out-blocked the visitors 9-4, riding a 16-point performance by Gavin Schmitt (Saskatoon) to earn the opening-night victory in just one hour and 18 minutes.

“It was a good way to start World League,” said Canadian captain Frederic Winters of Victoria, BC. “We did the same thing last year, started really strong in our home matches and then the theme was we didn’t do so well the second night. So I think the guys are really aware of that. We’ll be really prepared for tomorrow night, I think Finland’s capable of playing much better, especially in service.”

Glenn Hoag, Canada’s head coach, pointed out there’s still plenty of room for improvement for his squad.

“Both teams are working things out, it’s obvious,” he said. “This is what World League is at the beginning. The game grows better as we go; we have a lot of things to work on. Our serving wasn’t great. We didn’t serve very hard, and that’s one part of the game where we need to improve is put hard serves in. Second thing is our small play. We need to polish it. We need to be better at setting high balls by non-setters.”

Buoyed by a boisterous hometown crowd of 2,850 at Calgary’s Stampede Corral, the Canadians jumped out to an 8-3 lead in the first set. The Finns found their finesse game with five attacks by Urpo Sivula and worked back to just a two-point disadvantage at 18-16, but Schmitt was solid down the stretch as Canada took it 25-21.

In the early stages of the second with Canada leading 4-2, Finland libero Lauri Kerminen sustained a leg injury and was carried off the court by his teammates. The set followed a similar pattern as the first: Canada took the early lead, Finland pushed in the middle to come within two points, and Canada pulled away late. Hometown boy Graham Vigrass (Calgary), a late substitution for the home side, put it away as Canada took a 25-19 set win and a two-set lead in the match.

Led by Sivula and Matti Oivanen, Finland made the third set the tightest of the three. The set featured 11 tie scores between 6-6 and 18-18 as neither team could gain a significant advantage, but a block by Canada’s Gord Perrin (Creston, B.C.) and Justin Duff (Winnipeg) broke the tie for good and gave them a 19-18 lead. A kill and a service ace by Schmitt set up match point, and a Finland serve error gave Canada the win at 25-20.

Sivula picked up 15 points on the night, all on attacks, while Oivanen had five attacks and all of Finland’s four blocks. Schmitt led Canada with 12 kills, with Perrin adding nine. Rudy Verhoeff (Calgary) also had a solid night with six kills, a block, and an ace for Canada.

For his part, Finland head coach Tuomas Sammelvuo knows that his team needs to be better to have a chance against the Canadians in Sunday’s rematch.

“We know that physically, they are stronger than us so we need to find other solutions,” Sammelvuo said. “First of all service and reception, we have to be absolutely better. We didn’t serve as we have been serving lately and we made too many mistakes. We will come back tomorrow and fight for every ball because we can always do something until the ball is on the floor.”

Canada and Finland will wrap up the opening leg of their Pool C competition Sunday night in Calgary, with first serve just after 6 p.m. MDT at the Stampede Corral.


Photo by Mike Ridewood/FIVB