All the pieces were in place for a golden performance by Canada’s national men’s volleyball team.
A monster-sized crowd took in Saturday night’s showdown against arch rival U.S. at the Langley Events Centre, during the gold medal game of the 2013 NORCECA international tournament.
The tournament, featuring Canada, the U.S., Saint Lucia, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Bahamas, Mexico, and Guatemala, ran Sept. 23-28.
The gold medal match was not the storybook ending Canada was hoping for as the hosts fell in three sets (25-23, 25-20, 25-14) to the Americans.
Canada came into the final with momentum, but it just wasn’t enough.
The U.S. took home the gold and in doing so booked its ticket to the FIVB Grand Champions Cup tournament in Japan.
The first set of the final was within the Canadians’ grasp as they led 19-16 in the late stages, but the U.S. closed the gap and was able to tie things up at 21-21.
The two teams then traded points until the Americans finished the opening set with a 25-23 comeback victory, and they carried that momentum the rest of the way.
Canada struggled to get its offence going after the opening set loss, as both Gord Perrin and Dallas Soonias were held to just seven kills apiece.
The game plan really changed for Canada when captain Fred Winters went down with an ankle injury and was unable to return. The injury to Winters hurt Canada the most in its passing game, as he had been one of the team's stronger passers throughout the tournament.
The U.S. was led by tournament MVP Matthew Anderson, who had an impressive final game with 14 kills and three service aces.
The Canadian block that was so dominant during the tournament had no answer for Anderson and was almost non-existent, as the U.S. out blocked Canada 10-6.
In the end it was the serve-and-pass game that proved to be the difference, as the U.S. served lights out and was constantly able to put pressure on the Canadian passers.
It’s another learning experience for a young Canadian team that is on the rise, after a solid summer of volleyball on the international stage.
Canada’s recent jump from 18th to 11th in the FIVB world rankings has been well earned through its recent success.
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The dream final was set for Canada after the host team defeated Cuba in three sets in Friday’s semifinal.
The Canadians swept the Cubans in three sets (25-14, 25-17, 25-21) in front of more than 2,000 fans at the LEC.
Canada was a blocking machine in the victory, posting 16 blocks as a team.
Perrin and Rudy Verhoeff combined for 10 total blocks and led the way for Canada with 14 points apiece.
There were points of the match where it just seemed like every time Perrin and Verhoeff went up to block they were getting touches, and the Cubans had no answer.
Canada had contributions from everyone again, and Soonias, in particular. Soonias put together another strong offensive performance, adding 11 kills in the win.
The next night, Canada faced the U.S. for the first time since losing to the Americans in the 2012 Olympic qualifier last year.
Leading into the final, Canada had never won gold at the NORCECA championships.
Cuba won the bronze medal with a hard-fought, five set win over Puerto Rico.
Scores were 27-29, 25-27, 25-20, 27-25, and 15-12.
Ezequiel Cruz was the top scorer with 23 points for Puerto Rico, which jumped out to a 2-0 lead in sets, and also had a very solid production with Mannix Roman (17 points), Juan Vazquez (12), and captain Enrique Escalante (12).
However, Cuba distributed its attack and blocking game to come from behind in the third set.
Rolando Cepeda led the way with 18 points, while David Fiel closed with 16.
Abrahan Alfonso Gavilan scored 13, Yordan Bisset 12 and Jorber Quintana 10.
Mexico finished in fifth place after a three set sweep over the Dominican Republic.
Scores were 25-23, 25-22, and 26-24.
Daniel Vargas was the top scorer for Mexico with 14 points while Edgar Herrera closed with 11.
For Dominican Republic, Elvis Contreras closed with 10 points.
Both teams surrendered 21 points by unforced errors, but Mexico topped in kill blocks with 12 against only five by the Dominican squad.
The NORCECA tournament was an opportunity for individuals to shine.
Individual awards went to:
Most Valuable Player – Matt Anderson, U.S.
Best scorer – Rolando Cepeda Abreu, Cuba
Best spiker – Andy Alexis Leonardo Blanco, Guatemala
Best setter – Micah Christenson, U.S.
Best digger – Dennis Del Valle, Puerto Rico
Best blocker – Rudy Verhoeff, Canada
Best receiver – Blair Cameron Bann, Canada
Best libero – Dennis Del Valle, Puerto Rico
Best server – Micah Christenson, U.S.
Dr. Jim Coleman Award (coach) – John Speraw, U.S.
Tournament all-stars were: outside hitters Matt Anderson and William Priddy, U.S. along with Daniel Vargas, Mexico; setter Micah Christenson, U.S.; middle blockers Rudy Verhoeff, Canada and Byron Ferguson, Bahamas; and libero Dennis Del Valle, Puerto Rico.
(From LEC Media)
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