OTTAWA, Canada, June 6, 2023.- A new era has started well for the Canadian men’s national team as the North Americans defeated NORCECA rivals Cuba in the tie-breaker in their debut in the Volleyball Nations League 2023 on Tuesday to win their first official match under the guidance of new head coach Tuomas Sammelvuo.
Pushed by thousands of home fans that packed the TD Place, in Ottawa, and created a fantastic atmosphere, the Canadians won a five-set (25-21, 26-28, 25-21, 22-25, 15-13) thriller to begin their VNL 2023 campaign on the right foot.
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The match was the first official encounter of the team with Sammelvuo, who was hired at the end of the 2022 season. The former Finnish player had coached the team in a pair of friendly matches against Brazil last week, getting a win and a loss.
Opposite Ryan Sclater was a key piece in the Canadian victory, leading the team’s offense with 27 points (22 kills, one ace, four blocks). The 29-year-old player also scored the game-winning point in the tie-breaker.
“We want this fighting spirit to be a part of our identity”, Sclater commented. “We always want to keep fighting through the ups and downs of any game, so that was good to see. It’s fun to be that scrappy team that just loves to fight. Playing at home this week has been really fun. It’s going to be an amazing week.”
Outside hitters Stephen Maar and Nicholas Hoag also had strong performances, delivering 18 and 13 points, respectively. Middle blocker Danny Demyanenko also had a solid showing at the net, producing four blocks in his ten-point performance.
Cuba had the match’s top scorer in opposite Jesus Herrera, who beat Sclater by one point and ended the match with 28 (24 kills, two aces, two blocks). Outside hitters Miguel Angel Lopez and Marlon Yant tallied 15 points each, three more than middle blocker Javier Concepcion.
The Canadian blocking produced 17 points to Cuba’s six and strongly helped the winners make up for the Caribbean advantage in kills (75 to 58). The North Americans also benefited from more opponent errors (35 to 24), while both sides ended the match with three aces registered.
The second day of action in Pool 1 in Ottawa, Wednesday will have two more matches, with the United States and the Netherlands battling at 16:30 local time (20:30 UTC), and Brazil and Germany clashing at 20:00 local time (00:00 UTC, Thursday).