Road To The Olympic Games

Volleyball

Canada's volleyball women test 3rd-ranked Brazil early, drop opener in VNL debut

Canada looked anything but an 18th-ranked outfit early in its Volleyball Nations League debut on Tuesday. However, a more experienced women's side from Brazil took over after a 25-23 loss that served as a wakeup call, prevailing three sets to one (23-25, 25-11, 25-9, 25-14) in Italy.

Plenty of positives for inexperienced group in 1st set victory at Rimini, Italy

An inexperienced Canadian women's team, right, surprised Brazil by winning the first set in its Volleyball Nations League debut on Tuesday before the world No. 3 Brazilians reeled off three consecutive wins in the preliminary round matchup in Rimini, Italy. (Submitted by volleyballworld.com)

Canada looked anything but an 18th-ranked outfit early in its Volleyball Nations League debut on Tuesday.

However, a more experienced women's side from Brazil took over after a 25-23 loss that served as a wakeup call, prevailing three sets to one (23-25, 25-11, 25-9, 25-14) in preliminary round action in Rimini, Italy.

"I'm really proud of the work our team and coaching staff put in to get us into the VNL," Canadian outside hitter Alexa Gray told Volleyball World before the tournament opener. "Competing against the best will help our team gain experience."

The world No. 3 Brazilians made a VNL semifinal appearance in 2018 and a year later won a silver medal after losing to the two-time defending champion United States. Last year's tourney was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Canadians, who qualified for this year's tourney after capturing the 2019 FIVB Volleyball Challenger Cup, tested Brazil in the opening set Tuesday.

WATCH | Canada drops VNL opener to Brazil in 4 sets:

Brazil rallies to defeat Canada in Volleyball Nations League women's opener

Sports

2 months ago
7:33
Canada won the opening set but Brazil stormed back to take the next three sets in their season opening match at the 2021 FIVB Volleyball Nations League event in Rimini, Italy. 7:33

With the game tied 3-3, Canada went ahead by two on an Emily Maglio kill and an ace. Brazil later drew even 7-7 and took a 9-7 lead, but Canadians drew even on kills by Maglio and Hilary Howe.

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Brazil took a 13-10 advantage but a resilient group of Canadians fought back, with Jennifer Cross' dig leading to a point and 14-14 tie.

Gutsy win

Brazil never extended its lead by more than two points before Canada head coach Shannon Winzer, a former assistant, called a timeout with her team trailing 21-19.

"We're right there," the head coach of Canada's NextGen development program was heard telling her charges during the break.

After Brazil went up 22-19 on a block, a Cross point off a block and wide shot by Brazil opposite hitter Tandara Caixeta put Canada within a point, down 22-21.

Following a Brazilian timeout, Canada tied the match 23-23 and pulled away for good, highlighted by an Andrea Mitrovic block.

Four players stood out for Brazil as the two-hour match progressed: middle blocker Carol Gattaz — the oldest player in the tournament at 39 — outside hitter Gabi Guimaraes, middle blocker Ana Beatriz Correa and London 2012 Olympic champion Fernanda Garay, 34, who plans to sit out next season after the Tokyo Olympics to start a family.

Gattaz is a two-time FIVB world silver medallist representing her country for the first time since 2013 while Ana Beatriz was named best blocker at the 2019 VNL.

The Canadians return to the court Wednesday at 1:15 p.m. ET against the Americans, who blanked Dominican Republic 3-0 (25-20, 25-21, 25-12) on Tuesday.

Canada's men open VNL play on Friday against the U.S. at 11:45 a.m.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Doug Harrison has covered the professional and amateur scene as a senior writer for CBC Sports since 2003. Previously, the Burlington, Ont., native covered the NHL and other leagues for Faceoff.com. Follow the award-winning journalist @harrisoncbc

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