Well it wasn’t pretty, but the boys in red got it done tonight against the Netherlands, and a 3-1 win is just what the doctor ordered as a first match of the 2013 FIVB World League.
Canada defeated the Netherlands 25-22, 22-25, 27-25, 27-25 in the opening match of Pool C play.
It was the battle of the number 12’s, or the battle of the right sides, whatever you want to call it, but at the end of the night, Canada’s Gavin Schmitt finished with 23 points (21 kills and two aces), while his Dutch counterpart, Wytze Kooistra, led the match with 28 points (25 kills, two blocks, and a service ace).
Other than that, it was a game of errors. Canada kept their numbers in a relatively safe area, giving the opponent 22 points throughout four sets. The Netherlands let their inexperience show, handing Canada 41 points of the two hours of play, many of them coming at the end of sets three and four.
It was a dry offensive night for the remainder of the Canadian squad, with only Fred Winters and Gord Perrin breaking double digits, both finishing the match with 10 points.
In a match where Canada used 11 of 12 players, it was obvious that some bugs were being shaken out. Young players, and players coming back from injury, were given a shot to take the reigns.
Blair Bann started the match over veteran Dan Lewis, Dustin Schneider got back into the action after spending the past two professional seasons rehabbing injuries at the FTC, and Graham Vigrass made his first appearance with the Senior A team, as he was subbed in for Steve Brinkman mid-way through the 2nd set.
The crowd of approximately 3,500 was loud and boisterous, especially when “les Québequois” Louis-Pierre Mainville and Oliver Faucher came stepped on to the floor for the double sub. Faucher played his University ball here in Quebec City for the Laval Rouge et Or.
Maybe it was the spark from the crowd, but the double sub was effective all night long, with Canada only failing to steal a point in the fourth set after Mainville was subbed in. Faucher was always put in after, letting Gavin Schmitt rip serves with the added block of Mainville in the front row.
There’s no question that the team must play better tomorrow. Without the play of Schmitt, and the Netherlands’ sloppy play, Canada would not have been on the positive end of the result, as the Netherlands bested them in all offensive categories with 61 kills to Canada’s 49, eight blocks to our seven, and six serving aces to Canada’s four.
For those who thought that Canada was going to walk through Group C, tonight might have been a slight wake up call. It was looking scary towards the end of the 3rd set, with Canada down by three, and the guys in orange looking poised to take a 2-1 lead. Luckily, a few Dutch hitting errors brought us back into the match.
Regardless of how it came about, Canada's record now stands at 1-0, atop of Pool C with Finland who easily took down Portugal 3-0 earlier in the day.
One thing is for sure, the Canadian population is in for a treat over the next few weeks. Five more matches remain Canadian soil, and it would be tough to find a fan walking out of the Pepsi Coliseum tonight who wasn't happy.
Don't believe me? Come check out the action for yourself, Canada and Netherlands will face off a second time tomorrow, Saturday June 1st, at 4 pm EST in Quebec City. Can't make it out? Rogers Sportsnet will be broadcasting the match live nationwide.