The one Langley member of Volleyball Canada’s men’s team can’t be credited or blamed for this weekend’s successes and failures.
Daniel Jansen Vandoorn is middle blocker with the team, but he didn’t make the roster for the Volleyball Nations League competition held in Ottawa this past weekend. Therefore, he can’t be credited for the earning Canada’s fourth straight win Friday against Australia 3-0 (25-19, 26-24, 25-19), nor can he be blamed for the fall Saturday to Germany, 3-1 (25-23 25-22 20-25 25-19), nor the defeat by the U.S., 3-1 (23-26, 25-13, 2 5-19, 25-20) on Sunday.
“After two weekends abroad, we are very excited to play in Canada in front of our home fans,” head coach Stephane Antiga said ahead of play. “The players are looking forward to competing in Ottawa and are prepared to continue our strong Volleyball Nations League (VNL) campaign.”
With both the men’s and women’s leagues, there are 16 teams in each gender competing in the VNL. With a total of 260 matches played in the tournament, each team will play a minimum of 15 matches and each core nation will host at least one pool. The top five teams of the standings will make it to the finals.
Canada began VNL in Poland, falling to Russia and Poland, but picking up a 3-0 win over Korea. Last weekend in Argentina, Canada had a stellar streak – beating Italy, Argentina, and Iran. This weekend, Canada played Australia and Germany, already, and will go up against the U.S. at the Arena at TD Place in Ottawa today.
The Canadian roster features six 2016 Olympians. It also features at least one Trinity Western University alum and volleyball star Ryan Sclater, of Port Coquitlam. While Vandoorn is not playing this weekend, Sclater is on the court.
Looking for victory, Volleyball Canada needed to play well at home during its first game on Friday, said Antiga, whose team was lifted by the atmosphere inside Arena at TD Place.
“It seems easy because we won 3-0, but it was because we played nice volleyball; we served and spiked really well,” he said. “We didn’t waste a lot of energy because we played only three sets and some guys like Gavin Schmitt and Arthur Szwarc both played a little bit. There were many fans, which makes us happy.”
It was the first time the team had played in front of such a friendly crowd in some time.
“I think we’re all super excited to be home, and you could see we were a little bit antsy at the beginning of the game,” said captain TJ Sanders of London, Ont.
“It good to be back in front of a home crowd and we want to play well. It’s cool to show them some good volleyball and obviously we’re really happy that we came home and got the 3-0 victory,” Sanders added. “We’ll do our normal prep for the next two games (against Germany on Saturday and the U.S. on Sunday), but our goal right now is to win every game.”
Saturday team played ‘sloppy’
Well, Saturday’s desired defeat over the Germans didn’t happen, and coach Antiga chaulks that up to sloppy play, noting 25 errors. Germany, on the other hand, beat Canada and the U.S. so far in this leg of the tournament.
“We had opportunities, especially in the first set and I’m really not satisfied with our play. We weren’t aggressive enough, and we made a lot of mistakes,” Antiga said. “No excuses at all, but we just weren’t ready to fight in the first set. We need to play better tomorrow (Sunday), for sure. U.S.A. started bad [Saturday] against Australia (then winning 1-3), but then we saw a reaction and they started serving better. We are ready for them.”
“We didn’t start so strong tonight,” interjected Sanders. “But, I think it was in the middle of the third set and ‘Let’s Go Canada’ started and it really helped us grind. This is a long tournament and we just got back from Argentina and there’s a lot going on. So, to have that support when up against a team like Germany means a lot… Tomorrow we’re going to bring a strong serving game and just battle.”
Sunday also defeated, but ‘keep believing’
Well, Sunday came and went without another victory for Canada, but Antiga said the defeat barely damped the spirits of the enthusiastic and supportive audience.
“”It’s a pity. We won the first set, but the U.S. just played better in the other sets. We did, however, play better than yesterday against Germany, so there’s some satisfaction in that,” the coach shared. “We had some problems, but we fought, but I really enjoyed our game today – it was much better than yesterday. For the next VNL leg, we’ll have to keep working, keep playing, keep believing. Everything is possible. We need to keep playing hard and consistent. We will win more games!”
Canada now has to re-group for six games on the road – starting against Olympic champions Brazil in Bulgaria on Friday.
As of today, Canada sits eighth (out of 16) with five wins and four losses in 2018 Volleyball Nations League.
Veteran back in the fold
This past weekend marked the return of Gavin Schmitt, a veteran who played a pivotal role in the team’s Olympic campaign: “It’s good to be back with the guys, obviously in a smaller role,” said the Saskatoon native.
“The guys are playing really well and my goal was just to help out in any way I can, and I was able to bring a little bit of energy in a tight second set. Overall, I think we played pretty well. Australia had a really good set in the second. They were making us play really hard and were digging a lot of balls so we had to escape from that, but once we did, we got rolling in the third and we were able to get the win. For me the crowd always helps,” Schmitt said.