World League: Canada earns a victory after an exciting five sets in Calgary

Calgary, AB. June 01, 2014 – A night after earning a straight-sets victory, Canada had to dig deep Sunday to emerge with a 3-2 win (19-25, 25-21, 25-18, 23-25, 15-11) over plucky Finland in FIVB Volleyball World League action at the Stampede Corral in Calgary, Alberta. (Video highlights on YouTube.)
 
Led once again by a 28-point effort in just four sets from Gavin Schmitt (Saskatoon), Canada weathered the storm early and sent their home fans happy after a thrilling finish.
 
Finland battled to the end, never giving Canada any sustained momentum. The twin Finns Mikko and Matti Oivanen combined for back-to-back blocks in the fifth set to make it 9-9, and Antti Siltala’s kill ended a great rally to make it 11-11 – but Canada scored the final four points, punctuated by a service ace by captain Frederic Winters (Victoria, B.C.) to move to 2-0 in the intercontinental round.
 
“We expected the game to be much tougher and it was,” said Canada's head coach Glenn Hoag. “(In the) first set we tried a couple players that we wanted to see if they were ready to help us out and obviously that didn’t work too well.  … The second and third set got better as we put Gavin in and he started playing better and also we were serving too tentatively in the first set, we started putting more pressure with our serves which is one thing that we keep working on. We need to keep working and make big serves and put them in. We made too many mistakes but at least we didn’t lay off. We tried to be very aggressive and that helped us quite a bit.”
 
"First of all, I am happy about the way we came back today,” said Finland head coach Tuomas Sammelvuo. “We are not so physical, so we have to be better at defence and be patient. We had our chances and it was a good game to learn how to be patient - to stay focused and not to be too hurried to win the game. Of course there are a lot of technical things that we have to improve, but we have to start from the positive things and move forward.”
 
The Finns came out with renewed energy after dropping Saturday night’s match in straight sets, taking the opening set 25-19 thanks in large part to a seven-point effort from Urpo Sivula.
 
The Canadians turned things around in the second set with the return to the floor of Schmitt, Canada’s offensive catalyst Saturday. Schmitt’s return brought back a power game for Canada, and the red-and-white-clad home side rode that to a comfortable 25-21 win in the second set.
 
The home side continued to establish its game in the third, with middle Justin Duff (Winnipeg) contributing while Gord Perrin (Creston, B.C.) came on strong in the third as well. Down the stretch it was Schmitt once again, with his service ace putting the finishing touch on a 25-18 Canada victory.
 
But Finland were not about to roll over. Canada seemed destined for the win in four sets, holding a 20-16 lead in the fourth and holding the momentum. The visitors’ defence held them in, and Finland clawed their way back to take a tight 25-23 decision to force a fifth set.
 
Perrin added 20 kills to Schmitt’s 25 as Canada out-killed Finland 62-55. Winters added five kills and three blocks for Canada. Siltala, the Finnish captain, led his side with 14 kills and 17 points while Urpo Sivula contributed 11 kills. Matti Oivanen was a force at the net, recording a match-high five blocks.
 
“It was much better today,” Siltala said after the match. “We took one step forward. Some moments we were playing pretty good. I am sad that we lost the game for a couple of easy balls. I think Canada made a lot of mistakes in service today and that helped us a lot. We had our chances to take this game, but I think we need one step more as we move forward.”
 
The teams will meet again in Tampere, Finland June 27-28. First, Pool C action continues for both teams next weekend across the oceans. Canada will cross the Atlantic to face Belgium in Liège and Antwerp June 6 and 8, while Finland will head down under to take on Australia June 7-8 in Canberra.
 
Canada returns home to take on Belgium June 13-14 at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre in Vancouver.

Report by Ben Matchett for Volleyball Canada

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Media contact: Jackie Skender
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