By Toby White
Canada sent its top fighters to disarm North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction on Sunday. The Men’s Volleyball team trounced Kim Jong-il’s young squad 3-0 before a sold-out crowd of more than 8,000 people at the Summer Universiade in Daegu.
The players took to the floor in front of an eclectic mix of fans including Korean unificationists cheering on the North and the Church of God, World Mission Society favouring Canada. The atmosphere was quite atypical of a volleyball game, with armed security everywhere. The Canucks had their dressing room searched by police during their afternoon warmup. It is a well-known fact that CSIS often attempts to assasinate officials from communist dictatorships using volleyball secret agents… Not.
Despite the frenzy surrounding the game, both teams pulled it together for the first set. The North Koreans got an early lead but the Canadians fought back with some excellent blocking. Improving on previous games, a series of Canadian stuffs gained the team a 19-12 lead. Captain Mike Munday from the University of Manitoba continued to show strong leadership on the floor. A sequence of aggressive kills gave Canada a 25-22 win.
Head coach Greg Ryan from the University of Calgary was proud of the way his team handled the game under the pressure, especially since the team has only been together for 9 days.
“They really handled themselves well,” said Ryan. “They used their height advantage against the Koreans.”
Korea gained an advantage over the Canadians early in the second set. The team fought back, though, with the help of U of C’s Sean Kendal, who launched a pair of kills at the Koreans as well as two blocks as Canada took the set 25-23.
Ryan was impressed with Kendal’s performance in the game.
“He’s played outstandingly,” said Ryan proudly.
Kendal felt the team was well prepared to deal with the Korean’s assault.
“They have a very unorthodox offensive style,” the Dino pointed out. “But we trained for that and expected it.”
The Canadians came out a little slow in the opening minutes of the third set, but bounced back quickly. Their blocking was in fine form, providing them with the edge needed to put them ahead of the North Koreans. Korea was able to pull back to 23-22 but were answered with a great kill from Dalhousie’s Joshua Muise. Canada sealed the deal with a great dig and a kill off the rally to win the final set 25-22.
The biggest challenge the Canadians faced seemed to be fighting their way back to the dressing room through the throngs of South Korean fans plying them for autographs, obviously impressed with the team’s performance.
The win put the team alone in first place in their pool, and their next game will be against Denmark on Aug. 26. Kendal is optimistic about the Canadian’s chances in the tournament.
“We’re playing great,” said Kendal. “We’ll easily beat the Americans if we play them again. I think we have a good chance to medal in this tournament.”