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Indoor: 2019 World Cup Preview

Last night marked the beginning of 15 straight days of volleyball at the 2019 FIVB Men's World Cup in Fukuoka and Nagano, Japan.

The World Cup is the elite FIVB event we all forget about, featuring 12 of the world's best teams playing a gruelling 11 matches in 15 days in a single round-robin tournament.

Did we need another international tournament coming right after the Continental Championships and the Olympic Qualifiers? Probably not - but we've got it anyways so let's watch the two best teams from each Continental zone join World Champions and hosts Japan play in front of empty Japanese stadiums. Load management isn’t a thing in volleyball, right?

Usually, it’s a key part of the Olympic Qualification process, with the winner booking their tickets to the big dance. But since Japan is already pre-qualified as hosts - they decided to run Olympic Qualifiers instead, you know, in case Japan wins the World Cup. Unlike every other World Cup in sports, Japan is the only country to host the competition - probably because that’s the way we did it in 1965 and change is hard. The only thing really on the line is ranking points, which seems like a rich gets richer situation.

Don’t get me wrong, the volleyball will still be great, with the top 8 teams in the world in attendance. Brazil, USA, Italy, Poland, Russia, and Argentina have all booked their tickets to the Olympics, and it looks like most of the big boys are out to play. And who isn’t excited to watch Tunisia play Japan?

The Maple Volleys kick off their World Cup campaign on October 1st against World No. 1 Brazil and finish October 14th against hosts Japan. Photo: FIVB

The Maple Volleys kick off their World Cup campaign on October 1st against World No. 1 Brazil and finish October 14th against hosts Japan. Photo: FIVB

Canada will kick off the competition on October 1st against World No. 1 Brazil, and finish things off on October 14th against hosts Japan. A rematch with Argentina goes down on Wednesday October 9th, followed by a meeting with our neighbours to the south on Friday October 11th.

Nick Hoag will take the stripe and lead the Maple Volleys as both Gord Perrin and Graham Vigrass are off the roster in favour of rest, while Ryan Sclater was given the Dad pass. In their place, Blake Scheerhorn and Danny Demyanenko will join the roster for the first time and we get to see the return of Ryley Barnes who’s been off the roster for over a year with an ankle injury. It’ll be interesting to see how he works himself back into the line-up, as he been known to put up some serious numbers for the Maple Volleys while providing a solid presence in the back court and on serve receive.

The pins will be held down by Stephen Maar and Sharone Vernon-Evans and bolstered by Captain Hoag. The two Trinity Towers of Terror, Dan Jansen van Doorn and Lukas van Berkel, will soak up the most minutes as anchors in the middle of the court. Don’t be surprised if Arthur Szwarc gets to wet his whistle a bit as well - he’s been having a real solid summer, and more time will only benefit a kid who didn’t play club and only had a year of University ball under his belt before he joined the FTC a few years back.

Brett Walsh will continue running the offence and Byron Keturakis will get some needed experience as both TJ Sanders and Jay Blankeneau continue to rehab injuries. In their absence, Walsh has settled himself nicely into the role of starter, and the World Cup will be a chance for the former Golden Bear to see how he matches up against some of the best in the world.

A big part of it will be to re-establish the connection with Sharone Vernon-Evans. The opposite was looking real scary in the first two weekends of the Nations League before he suffered an ankle injury in Iran, and we didn’t get to see the same level of dominance at either the Olympic Qualifiers or the NORCECA Championships. The Maple Volleys have been running a very fast small-ball offence most of the summer that heavily featured Ryan Sclater, and the man who touches 12’6” has a tough time finding rhythm in that offence for some reason. With the high-flying Blake Scheerhorn stepping into the backup opposite role, Walsh won’t have the option to run it fast on the right side, so we’re likely to see an overload of fast sets to the outside and 31s in the middle in order to provide some separation for Vernon and Scheerhorn.

Finally, the beach team of Bann/Marshall will be suiting up in the opposite jerseys all tournament long. We’ll see of Coach Hoag continues to use the two libero system or if we’ll see a more traditional lineup. It’s still unclear (at least to me) if this has been a good move, and the serve receive will need to be much better than it was against Cuba if the Maple Volleys are going to steal some precious points as they prep for the rematch in January.

Visit our tournament homepage for more information including schedules, results and live stream information.

You can catch all Canadian matches live on our World Cup homepage courtesy of CBCsports.ca and you can find every match live and on-demand on Volleyball World TV.

TEAMS

🇧🇷 Brazil | No. 1

🇺🇸 USA | No. 2

🇮🇹 Italy | No. 3

🇵🇱 Poland | No. 4

🇷🇺 Russia | No. 5

🇨🇦 Canada | No. 6

🇦🇷 Argentina | No. 7

🇮🇷 Iran | No. 8

🇯🇵 Japan | No. 11

🇪🇬 Egypt | No. 13

🇦🇺 Australia | No. 16

🇹🇳 Tunisia | No. 22