Team Canada’s 2014 FIVB World Championships has come to an end after a 3-0 (28-26, 25-22, 25-23) loss to Germany in their final match of Pool F action.
With the loss, Canada finishes in 7th place - a best ever finish for the Canadian men’s National volleyball team at the the World Championships, improving on the previous best from 20 years ago - a ninth in 1994.
What’s more encouraging is with the loss doesn’t come the token “You should be proud of making it this far” feeling. In it’s place it is the stabbing knowledge that their could have been more. Canada didn’t fall to a far superior team. Instead, it was a loss that very well could have been a win.
For the second game in a row, the team failed to capitalize on golden opportunities. They saw a 16-12 lead evaporate in the first set when Denys Kaliberda went on a serving run and even held set point up 24-22. But Germany fought back , and on the back of Gyorgy Grozer closed it out at 28-26.
Their was still hope remaining in the second set, and things looked good early as Canada took a 8-7 lead. But Kaliberda was the game-changer once again as he rattled off two more of his four aces to give Germany the lead while Grozer continued to prove why he’s considered one of the best - bailing out Germany in tough situations time and time again and scoring an incredible 18 points in only two sets of play.
Canada managed to challenge a call at 21-19, followed by a Perrin block on Grozer to pull the Canucks within one. It certainly felt like a turning point, but Grozer answered right back by shutting down Perrin with a block of his own, then heading back to the baseline to rattle off his first ace to putt Germany up 23-20. Germany booked their ticket to the Final Six at 25-22.
Canada needed the full three points to move on, meaning the third set was of little importance. Off came Germany’s starters, letting those on the bench finish up the match. Canada continued to fight hard, but the knowledge the tournament was heavy to carry, and the Germans closed it out 25-23.
In the grand scheme of things, a seventh-place finish at the World Championships - especially after the 19th in Italy four years ago, is a gigantic leap forward for the program. A record of 6-3, which included a six-game win streak, is a huge accomplishment.
These things however, do little to wash away the sour-taste of defeat. The sour-taste that’s the strongest when thinking of moments in both the first and second when it seemed like Canada had everything in control and was going to pull it off. The sour-taste of knowing it wasn’t the teams’ best showing.
The feeling that comes with this defeat means something. It means the perception of the team has changed. Not just within the team, not just among fans, but across the global volleyball landscape. In the past, a best-ever finish would have been celebrated, while this one leaves us wanting more.
With that, all we can do is look to the future - and it’s as bright as it’s ever been.
We saw Nick Hoag and T.J. Sanders step into starting roles where they immediately left their mark. T.J. came in and proved that at only 23-years old he could run the offence and lead this team effectively. While he may have been one of the only surprises on the roster, no one is questioning is it now.
Hoag has show us he’s the player everyone was expecting him to be - confident, dynamic, and absolutely lethal. While his consistency from the baseline needs some work, he's shown that his lightning-quick arm-swing can strike fear in opponents, applying pressure whenever he’s given the ball. The best has yet to come from the youngest Hoag.
It's been eight years since Glenn Hoag was named Head Coach of the national team, and Canadian volleyball has never been at a better place. In four short years, Canada has gone from being an after-thought to one of the top teams in the world, and there's no doubt who's shoulders that rests on.
At the halfway point in this Olympic quad, the National team looks ready to make a serious run at qualification, something they haven't done since 1992.
A seventh-place finish - a best-ever for Canada. That's something to be proud of, and proud we are. Thank you to the team for taking us on this ride, we can't wait for what's the come next.