By Toby White
Team Canada was on a roll, but was unable to stop a Japanese attack.
After building some strong momentum earlier in the tournament, Japan removed any chance the Canadian men’s volleyball team had of taking home a medal Thursday night at the 2003 Summer Universiade in Daegu, South Korea. The Japanese team won the game 3 sets to 1 on Thu., Aug. 28. Canada trailed in all but one set, kamikazed by their own reluctance, and unable to get past the Japanese defenses.
“We played a little tentatively today,” said Canadian head coach Greg Ryan from the University of Calgary. “We’ve played eight matches, but this was the first big match. Some of the guys were feeling the pressure.”
Being a young team, many players had little or no international or even national team experience. That includes U of C’s Sean Kendal, who believed such inexperience was a factor in today’s outcome.
“We played really timidly, and we were kind of scared out there,” said Kendal. “For some of us, it was the biggest game we’ve ever played. It was the biggest game I’ve ever played. I’ve never represented Team Canada before.”
Disappointed with today’s results, Kendal is still positive about the tournament, and is excited to bring everything he has learned in Korea back to the Dinos this fall.
“I feel like I can play at this level in future competitions. It’s a great learning experience for me,” said Kendal, adding, “I’ve always wanted to play for my country.”
Experience was certainly on Japan’s side. The team has been together since last summer, playing in over 30 international matches, while Canada has only been together for eight, according to Ryan. The imbalance showed as Japan started strong and left few opportunities for the Canadians to find.
The first set belonged to Japan, with Canada unable to take the lead for a single point. It was obvious that the pressure of the playoff game was getting to the Canadians. They had many problems finding holes in the Japanese defense and did not appear as confident as they have in the past few matches. Despite a couple of good rallies, some great scrambles and a lot of power shown by Laval’s Carl Lalancette, Japan took the set 21-25.
Canada took an early lead in the second set, but could only hold on for the first four points as the Japanese defense cranked up the level of play. Canada stayed hot on their heels, however, not giving up much of a lead until Japan scored a quick middle kill and an ace to make it 15-19. The Canucks had some trouble getting their blocks up in time, leaving the back row at the mercy of Kyohei Shibata’s powerful offside swings, and costing them the set 19-25.
The third set opened with Japan aggressively on the attack again, breaking through Canada’s defenses and recovering every shot thrown at them. Canada managed to find a few cracks by coming through with some strong blocks, taking the lead at 16-15. The teams traded points, with Canada coming through with a big kill by Dalhousie’s Joshua Muise, followed by a stuff by Manitoba’s Peter Turpin, giving Canada the set 25-22.
Japan took control of the fourth frame early on, and didn’t give the Canadians many chances to even it up. A questionable call to give Japan a 9-14 lead took the wind out of Canada’s sails, allowing Japan to chalk up an ace and a big block. Some misfires by Canada’s hitters and Japan’s solid back row wrapped up the win for Japan at a disappointing 16-25.
Canada will go on to play Turkey on Friday in the consolation round.