Canada downed by U.S. at volleyball Nations League
Canadians dropped 3 straight sets after opening with a win
For members of the Canadian men's volleyball team, the chance to play on home soil doesn't come very often, so the group wasn't feeling very good Sunday following a four-set loss to the U.S. at a Volleyball Nations League event in the country's capital.
"It's always fun when you get to play at home. You don't get the opportunity too much because we all play professionally overseas, so you don't get the opportunity to play in Canada very often," said Saskatoon native and longtime national team member Gavin Schmitt,
"Personally though, my performance wasn't very good. I think if I could have assisted a little better and had a little better level, then we would have had a better shot. We had trouble scoring out of position too, which allowed them to set up their block a little better, but we're not far off."
Canada took the opening set in Ottawa 25-23 but then struggled mightily in the second dropping it 25-13. The Americans took over the match and, except for a couple of hiccups in the final two sets, closed it out 25-19 and 25-20.
"We talked about trying to get off to a better start and we did a little bit, but we had a lot of scoring opportunities we didn't take advantage of in that first set," American coach John Speraw explained.
"I'm proud of the way we came back, so I think grit is the right word. It was super competitive, not super clean all the time and there were some referee calls that got everybody into it a little bit, but it all worked out."
This was the third weekend of pool play for the Volleyball Nations League with two more weekends to go before the finals portion begin in France. It is the inaugural season of the event.
Canada finished the weekend with a 1-2 record as they also fell 3-1 to Germany on Saturday after a three-set win over Australia on Friday night.
The top five of the 16 country-event along with host France will qualify for the finals running from July 4-8.
The Americans are currently tied for third with France at 7-2, while Canada sits tied with Italy in seventh at 5-4.
"We were expecting two wins [this weekend]. Germany is a good team. They serve very well and were able to hold their serve and that's the main reason we lost to them," Canadian coach Stephane Antiga said.
"Against the U.S, we were stronger and it was a much better game, but we still need to do some work, but we played batter toward the end of this competition."
Canada defeated the U.S. 3-0 with set scores of 25-23, 25-17 and 25-23 in the opening round of the 2016 Rio Olympics. The Americans went on to win a bronze medal, while Canada finished fifth.
Speraw didn't think Canada had any extra motivation heading into Sunday's match.
"I don't think so. I think what plays into it is that these are two quality teams. When we're playing an inter-zone rival that's high quality like Canada, of course it gets pretty competitive and you have to bring your best level of focus and A game. To me the Olympics was a long time ago."
Canada will now move on to Varna, Bulgaria next weekend to face Brazil (8-1), Bulgaria (3-6) and France (7-2) in the second-to-last week of the competition.
"We know going in Brazil is, I think, still No. 1 in the world and France is top five," Schmitt said.