After a week off, some much needed rest, and a flight debacle that seemed destined for Hollywood, the men’s National team is in Finland, ready to take on this familiar for in the 2013 FIVB World League.
In World League action last weekend, The Netherlands faced off against Portugal. The first match went the distance with Portugal taking it in the fifth, while the second was a much shorter, but equally as tight, 3-0 win for The Netherlands.
While both Canada and The Netherlands boast a record of 4-2, the Oranje do sit atop Pool C with 13 points because of the single point given for a five-set loss.
Our opponent for this weekend, Finland, holds a record of 3-3, sitting in third place with nine points. Two surprising loses to Japan two weeks puts Finland in a do-or-die situation, as one more loss would pretty much seal their fate. Pairing this with a week off the fix whatever was amiss, and put them in front of a home, and this just became a very dangerous squad.
Make no mistake about it; this two-game series will make or break Canada’s 2013 World League.
How we’re looking
The trip to Finland is missing one important piece: Gavin Schmitt. The Canadian point-producing machine stayed home to nurse a stress fracture in his leg. At best we can hope for a return against Japan to close out pool play.
On the plus side, the squad was bolstered by the return of Justin Duff. The middle had a huge year, helping Arkas to a fifth place finish in Champions League, then helped Belgorod to a Russian Superleague title. Look for him to emerge as a go to guy in the middle along with Adam Simac.
Dallas Soonias took the reigns on the right side against Korea with two big nights, as did Perrin, and Winters on the left side. Without Schmitt, Canada’s offence needed to spread and diversify, and that's exactly what happened against Korea, but all weapons need to be firing this weekend against Finland.
On the bright side, the absence of Duff has given some younger guys, Graham Vigrass and Rudy Verhoeff, some valuable experience, with both performing well, especially Verhoeff, who has acted as a spark plug many times so far. Blair Bann is travelling with the team (I'd still expect Dan Lewis to start at Libero), as is Jason DeRocco. DeRocco has yet to see some action, but look for him to come in off the bench this weekend.
Shutting down the Oivanen brothers of Mikko and Matti will be the key. The two have a combined 119 kills and 20 blocks. So Canada's serving game will need to be as on point as Fred Winters' shoe game (if you don't know what I'm talking about, check out our podcast with him here) to disrupt their offence.
If the past means anything, Canada's last win of the 2012 World League came against Finland- in Finland, hopefully that streak can continue.