Canada done with moral victories at last-chance Olympic volleyball qualifier
Team needs top-3 finish to guarantee a spot in Rio
TOKYO – Despite two losses to kick start their last chance at qualifying for the 2016 Olympics, there's no panic creeping into Canada's men's volleyball team.
Up against two elite teams in Poland and Iran over the weekend, Canada was on the losing end in both matches. Despite the losses, they went the full five sets – meaning Canada got a point from each of those games at the expense of their two opponents.
The pressure may be mounting but Canada was a relaxed bunch as the team practiced on a day off from action on Monday. They play three matches in three days starting Tuesday morning local time.
"We're fine right now. We're probably not as happy as we would want to be," said libero Dan Lewis. "It's weird. As a group, we probably felt good getting the point against Poland but then bad getting the point against Iran but we can't really worry about that stuff. We've been working on reconnecting to the task."
Canada could be in a much more comfortable position after the two very close matches. They won the second and fourth sets but had a lead late in the third slip away against Poland (the defending world champions and No. 2 ranked team in the world). They also won the first two sets against No. 8 Iran before losing the next three.
'Points are going to come in handy'
Far from dwelling on what might have been, Canada knows that getting points off the top-ranked teams in the competition could pay dividends once the Olympic berths are decided at the end of the tournament.
"Those points are going to come in really handy later in this tournament so we'll see who else gets points against Poland and Iran and see where it goes from there," said Lewis, who, at 40-years-old is the senior member of this Canadian team. "Obviously it would have been way better to get points against Iran. I think we missed an opportunity there but that's how sports go."
Up next are games against Australia and Venezuela on Tuesday and Wednesday. Both of those teams are below Canada in the rankings so those are perfect opportunities to start picking up victories.
The third match in the stretch before the next day off is against France, which shares the No. 10 world ranking with Canada but is the defending FIVB World League champion and will be another tough match.
It's now at the point where moral victories won't do and Canada will be expected to start registering victories. The quicker the wins, the better as victories in fewer than five sets result in three points while five-set wins count for two.
"We just need to keep playing our game and polishing a few things," said head coach Glenn Hoag after the Iran game. "But we do need to get wins now."
After the three games in three days, Canada will have one more day off before the home stretch of the tournament sees them take on Japan and China. Both of them are ranked below Canada, as well.
Canada needs to finish in the top 3 to guarantee a spot at the Rio Olympics.