Canada fends off Czechs to book spot in Nations League
Alexa Lea Gray's 27 points helps power Canada to hard fought Challenger Cup win
Canada defeated the Czech Republic 3-2 (25-17, 25-16, 21-25, 23-25, 15-8) to win the Challenger Cup on Sunday in Lima, Peru.
Even sweeter, the win secured Canada a spot in the 2020 FIVB Volleyball Nations League—the highest tier competition.
WATCH | Canada claim Challenger Cup glory
Entering the match both teams were undefeated, with Canada topping Pool B, before dispatching Croatia in the semis.
While the Czechs, winners of Pool A, advanced to the final by defeating Argentina.
Canada started the game strong, with comfortable wins in the opening two sets. The Czechs, however, refused to go quietly.
For the Maple Girls, things started to unravel in the third, following an apparent leg injury to Autumn Bailey of Burlington, Ont. After going up for a block, Bailey landed awkwardly and was unable to return. The team looked rattled following her exit and the Czechs quickly stormed ahead to take the set.
It was the first set Canada had dropped in the tournament. It wouldn't be the last, as the Czechs continued their good form into the fourth to force a fifth and decisive frame.
But with everything on the line, Canada held firm.
"It was such an emotional match - this one will be remembered," said Canada's coach Tom Black.
"Unbelievable resilience by this team. So many contributions in the second half of the match to find a way and finally regain control of the fifth set. We will enjoy this for a moment and then regroup to continue building for the future."
Once again, Alexa Lea Gray led the way with 27 points. Jennifer Cross added 16, while both Kiera Van Ryk and Emily Maglio contributed 15 apiece.
It had been Canada's toughest match and the jubilation and tears showed as the team dropped to their knees in celebration.