Team USA proved too strong for Canada in the final match of NORCECA Olympic qualifier this Saturday night in Long Beach, California. The reigning Olympic champions found some resistance from the Canucks only in the first set, winning in three (28-26, 25-18, 25-20) in front of their home crowd who packed the 5000 seats of Walter Pyramid Gymnasium. With that win, the Americans got the ticket to the London Games. Team Canada, which will be competing in the World League starting this coming Friday, will have to wait until Rio Olympics in 2016 to achieve their dream of returning to the Games. Last time Canada men’s volleyball team participated at the Olympics was in Barcelona 1992, when they placed 10th.
Despite the loss, Canada made an impression in this qualifier when they beat Cuba in straight sets. Runner up in the last worlds championships, Cuba saw the game under Team Canada’s control. Later, in the semis, Canada overcame a tumbling start showing mental strength to beat Puerto Rico for the second time in the tournament. Cuba finished third after beating Puerto Rico 3-0 earlier on Saturday.
Head coach Glenn Hoag made some changes and the starting six for the final was Fred Winters and Toon van Lankvelt (left sides), Justin Duff and Adam Kaminski (middles), Dallas Soonias (opposite), Josh Howatson (setter), and Dan Lewis (libero). Kaminski and Soonias replaced Steve Brinkman and Gavin Schmitt respectively, two players that had been in the line-up since the first match. In the second set, Brinkman subbed in Duff and Nicholas Cundy replaced Lankvelt. Soonias was the game top scorer, with 19 points (17 kills, one block, one ace). Winters contributed with 12 kills.
The USA had a more balanced distribution, with four players with double digits, opposite Clayton Stanley ahead with 15 points (12 kills, one block, two aces). The setter Donald Suxho fed the middles and both had great participation, especially David Lee, who finished with 13 points, seven in attack.
Hoag said Canada didn’t play well, feeling the pressure, but he added that the team showed a lot of great things in California. Now they head to Toronto, where Canada plays the first weekend of 2012 World League, facing Brazil (ranked number one in the world), Poland (#4), and Finland (#27), at RicoH Coliseum. First match is against the Finns on Friday. Then Canada takes on Brazil (this match will be broadcast live on CBC at 4:00 p.m. EST) on Saturday. Finally on Sunday the Canadians will play against the Poles. Sixteen squads take part on this WL. The finals will be held in Sofia, Bulgaria, July 4-8 with six teams made up of the: host, the four pool winners and the best second place. Canada returns to the WL after a five-year absence.