The Maple Volleys have opened the 2018 FIVB World Championships in dominating fashion with a 3-0 (25-15, 25-23, 25-18) win of the Netherlands today in Bulgaria. They pick up a big three points to start Round 1.
Jay Blankenau got the start and kicked things off by teeing one up for Dan JVD and was immediately followed by Nick Hoag ripping an ace to give Canada the early 2-0 lead - and never looked back. The Maple Volleys are at their best when they dominate the serve and block game - and that’s exactly what happened tonight.
It was clear the Maple Volleys were just too much to handle for the Dutch, who are playing in their first World Championships since 1994. They were in control from the very first point, and other than a slight lapse mid-way through the second set, dictated the pace of play and dominated with their size and skill.
Nick Hoag was on another level and looked better than ever. With 7 kills on 12 attempts, he was deadly efficient and was a menace from the baseline - scoring 4 aces and teed one up for Stephen Maar for the overkill at a crucial point in the 2nd. He’s always had a high-level of skill - but it was almost like he wanted to challenge Nimir Abdel-Aziz to see who could hit harder, because he was absolutely hammering it today.
Both Gord Perrin and Sharone Vernon-Evans looked good in their official return to the roster. While Vernon-Evans started all three sets and played the majority of the match - Perrin was subbed off mid-way through the second in favour of Stephen Maar, a move we’re probably going to see more than once during the opening round in order to keep everyone as healthy as possible.
It’s not often you see a winning team’s top scorer make only 7 kills - but with an offence spread as evenly as this, it’s no surprise. Three players (Hoag, Vernon-Evans, Jansen van Doorn) scored 7 kills while another trio (Perrin, Vigrass, Maar) scored six.
You gotta give credit where credits due - and might as well give your VISA to Jay Blankenau because he was money. Perrin and Vernon-Evans received the most sets - and that was only 15. He forced the middle early as Dan JVD led the scoring in the first-set. Finally - Steven Marshall got the start as libero - and if this continues we’re going to have to call him the “Ice Cream Man” because he was scooping all day.
Despite the Dutch ranking of No. 25 in the World and making their first appearance at the World Championships - this was a must win game for Canada. A loss to the Dutch with games remaining against Brazil and France isn’t a way to start the tournament - and when you have Nimir Abdel-Aziz on your roster, anything is possible. He scored 13 times on 29 attempts today - so they did a pretty good job shutting down a guy who could be one of the world’s best hitters.
Next up they take on Egypt on Thursday at 10:00 a.m. ET / 7:00 a.m. PT. On paper - it’s a match they should win having never lost to the top-African nation. However - this doesn’t mean it will be easy as Egypt is a veteran team with a number of options offensively. Canada will be to be as good as they were against the Netherlands in order to ensure a full three points - since points from Round 1 are carried onto Round 2 - every point matters.
Post Game Quotes
Nicholas Hoag, player of Canada: "I think the big difference in the match was serve and receive. We served really well without any mistakes, put them in trouble and add a hard time running their offense. We also received really well, so starting like this is really important for us. I think winning the second set was the key moment for our victory. Even though we had some difficulties and they were playing better, coming back from a few points behind and winning that set made us a little bit relieved. We are going to have a big preparation for the match tomorrow and of course we hope for another 3-0 win."
Stephane Antiga, coach of Canada: I’m so satisfied with this opening victory against the Netherlands. It is really important win and the perfect start of the completion for us. The level of the teams here in Ruse is really high and in every single match you must play as good as possible in order to win. We went with great motivation, managed to be focused, and the most important thing is the result in the end – 3-0. Now we are looking forward to our next match against Egypt.
Gido Vermeulen, coach the Netherlands: "I think the team of Canada were stronger at the firs and the third set but the second set we played a good game. However, at the end of the day they were the better team today. In the end of the second set we played really well in defense and our substitutes did a really good job to keep us in the game. But then, it is only one ball so you never know. I think we played a decent game. Tomorrow is a rest day for us, so we will prepare for the match against China on Friday."
Abdel-Aziz Nimir, captain of the Netherlands: "Of course we knew that it is going to be a difficult match because Canada is ranked sixth in the FIVB rankings and we are twenty fifth. We hoped to play a little bit better. They gave us a lot of pressure from the very first point in the opening set, and that was the key in this game. We just could not handle it."