Indoor: Team Canada Women Push Past Cuba
The Canadian women’s National team opened the 2019 NORCECA Championships with a 3-1 (25-16, 22-25, 25-17, 25-14) win over Cuba in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Alexa Gray led the charge with 20 kills and added a block while Kiera Van Ryk added 20 points - including 6 aces. Canada dominated Cuba in all statistical categories: 44-35 in kills, 10-6 in blocks, and 10-5 in aces.
It was probably the perfect game to kick-off the tournament. Cuba’s squad is basically their junior team, with the oldest athlete being 21-year old setter Gretell Moreno Borrero - but what they lack in experience, they make up for in enthusiasm and athleticism .
The Lady Maples dominated from the start with some steady game play and solid decision making. Brie O’Reilly got the start at setter, and she wasted no time at all getting the ball to her to best hitters.
The only time Cuba really threatened was halfway through the second where they started bombing serves and clamped down on some blocks. The young team was finally getting used to the speed of the gameplay, and Canada was caught coasting a little bit. The Cubans managed to pull out the 25-22 win, and for a minute or two, things looked a little rocky. But before the team even had to to switch to the other bench, middle Jen Cross huddled up the starters to put a stop to it and light a fire under her team.
I’m sure whatever she said in that huddle would’ve been bleeped if we could hear it, but it definitely woke Canada up. They found their rhythm once again, and pretty much cruised through the next two sets.
It’s going to be interesting to see if Coach Ben Josephson experiments with the line-up when they take on Costa Rica. Today, Kiera Van Ryk was on the left while Marie-Alex Bélanger was on the right, though Shainah Joseph was brought it in partway through sets 2-4. Canada only managed 2 points from the right, both coming from Bélanger, while Emily Maglio was the only one to score down the middle with 8 tallies of her own.
Serve receive was definitely an area in which they struggled, making it tough for O’Reilly to run the middle, and high balls to the outside aren’t that bad of a plan when you’ve got both Gray and Van Ryk as the outlet. But moving forward, setting an offence a little more evenly spread will help create openings for the two heavy-hitters.
Next up, Canada takes on Costa Rica Wednesday October 8th at 2:00 pm ET / 11:00 am PT. For those who want to watch - the stream can be purchased at www.internetv.tv for $2 per match or $10 for a tournament pass.