Canada scored a three-set win over host China on Wednesday to improve to 3-1 and move into second spot in Pool C at a men’s volleyball Olympic qualification tournament. The top two countries from each of the three pools will play in Paris next summer.
3-1 squad 2nd in pool behind Poland with favourable schedule remaining in Xi’an
The Canadian Press
Canada scored a three-set win over China on Wednesday to improve to 3-1 at the men’s volleyball Olympic qualification tournament.
Stephen Maar, of Aurora, Ont., paced the attack with 20 points on four aces and 16 kills in attack in Xi’an as Canada blanked the host Chinese 3-0 (25-19, 25-22, 26-24).
Eric Leoppky, of Steinbach, Man., had 17 points and 77 per cent spiking success rate, while Jordan Schnitzer, of Surrey, B.C., chipped in with 10 points.
“The guys stayed focused, despite being tired from the long and extensive [five-set] match against Poland [on Monday] We kept going back to the game plan and making those break points when we needed them most,” Nicholas Hoag, Canada captain and two-time Olympian, told Volleyball Canada.
The victory moved Canada into second place in Pool C behind top-ranked Poland (4-0). The Canadians have nine points, one fewer than Poland and one more than Argentina (3-1) and Belgium (2-2).
Only the top two countries from each of the tournament’s three pools advance to the Paris Olympics next summer.
WATCH | Canada blanks China, improves to 3-1 at Olympic qualifier:
Canada scores a big win over host China at Olympic volleyball qualifier
Featured VideoThe Canadian men moved into second place with a gritty, three set victory (25-19,25-22,26-24) at the Road to Paris tournament in Xi’an.
“We knew it was going to be a difficult game because there was a different type of pressure as we knew we needed the win,” said Canada head coach Tuomas Sammelvuo. “China caused us a lot of problems in attack, and we were just a little better and that was the key. And we were able to close the sets, so good work from the team.
“As I say after every game, now we recover and focus on our next opponent, which will be a difficult game against a very physical Bulgaria [outfit].”
The match versus No. 25 Bulgaria (2-2) is scheduled for Thursday at 10 p.m. ET and will be streamed live on CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem.
The Canadians then battle No. 21 Belgium (Friday, 10 p.m.) and No. 22 Mexico (Sunday, 4 a.m.) in single-match round robin pool play.
“Our fate is in our own hands, but we have Bulgaria and Belgium who have been playing really well and those will be two very tough games,” said Hoag. “And then Mexico to finish [the tournament] and they are a scrappy team with good defence.”
Silver medal at NORCECA event
Ranked 14th in the world, Canada opened the tournament on Saturday with a five-set victory over 11th-ranked Netherlands and defeated No. 6 Argentina in four sets the following day.
Last month, Canada fell to the United States in the gold-medal match at the NORCECA Continental Championship in Charleston, W.Va.
Canada entered the final with a 3-0 record following a semifinal victory over Cuba and sweeps of the Dominicans and Mexico.
The Canadians have made five appearances in Olympic men’s volleyball, recording their best finish in Los Angeles 1984 with a bronze medal. Canada was defeated in the quarterfinals in Rio (2016) and Tokyo (2021).
The women finished third in their group nine days ago in Ningbo, China, missing a chance to clinch an Olympic spot and instead will likely have to improve upon its No. 11 world ranking next summer to gain entry to the 12-team tourney.
WATCH | Full coverage of Pool C match: Canada vs. China:
FIVB Road to Paris Men’s Volleyball Olympic Qualification Tournament: Canada vs. China
Featured VideoWatch Canada take on China at the FIVB Road to Paris Men’s Volleyball Olympic Qualification Tournament in Xi’an, China.
#20 Jordan Canham — Avonmore, Ont.
#13 Samuel Cooper — Hamilton
#97 Landon Currie — Coldstream, BC
#6 Danny Demyanenko — Toronto
#1 Pearson Eshenko — Banff, Alta.
#2 Luke Herr —� Winnipeg
#4 Nicholas Hoag — Sherbrooke, Que.
#5 Brodie Hofer — Langley, B.C.
#80 Eric Loeppky — Steinbach, Man.
#18 Justin Lui — Pickering, Ont.
#7 Stephen Maar — Aurora, Ont.
#16 Jordan Schnitzer — Surrey, B.C.
#14 Arthur Szwarc — Toronto
#12 Lucas Van Berkel — Edmonton
#8 Brett Walsh — Calgary
With files from CBC Sports