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The Canadian men’s volleyball team heeded coach Stéphane Antiga’s advice for more “aggressive and active” play against the game’s elite, but couldn’t fend off the relentless hosts from Brazil to open Final Six play in FIVB World League on Tuesday.
The No. 8-ranked Canadians fought back from a 25-21 first-set loss to even the match, only to watch the reigning Olympic champions combine strong serving and defence to prevail in four sets – 25-21, 17-25, 25-19, 25-19 — in two hours five minutes.
“I thought we started right in the match, and played well with momentum,” said Canada’s captain Gord Perrin, “but it was too difficult with Brazil’s block, and we made too many errors in the end to have a chance to win the match, but we kept it close.”
Canada, coming off a 5-4 performance in the preliminary round, will face Russia on Wednesday (CBCSports.ca, 2:05 p.m. ET).
On June 9, the Canadians also fell in four sets to Brazil, but on this day came out with renewed purpose at Arena da Baixada, site of soccer’s 2014 World Cup. Temporary bleachers have been added near the court and capacity for volleyball is 28,000 at the 43,000-seat indoor facility.
“It was fun to play in the big gym,” said Perrin, who joked about Canadians having no issue with the cold. “Obviously it’s exciting to play against Brazil — the best team in the world — and a lot of the young guys haven’t played that many international matches, so I’m happy to have had this experience.”
Canada jumped out to a pair of five-point leads in the first set (7-2 and 12-7), much to the delight of Antiga, but frittered them away as Brazil grabbed the lead for the first time at 20-19 before the Canadians knotted matters by winning a block touch challenge.
However, the hosts earned four of the next five points and then collected another and won the set on a costly net touch by Canada’s Dan Jansen Van Doorn.
The teams exchanged points early on in set two before Canada started to pull away at 15-11 and then 18-13 on a great serve to the outside by rookie outside hitter Sharone Vernon-Wells.
In the third set, the Canadians failed to build on leads of 10-8 and 12-10 and Brazil went up for good at 16-15, capping its comeback with an ace by Mauricio Borges Almeida Silva.
If Canada’s players weren’t already feeling a little down, hearing the song Another One Bites the Dust by British rock band Queen blare in the stadium ahead of the fourth set probably only added to their pain.
The Canadians erased a 4-1 deficit to tie the final set 5-5 but couldn’t build on the momentum, frustrating Antiga, who was visibly upset with his charges after they fell behind 10-7 en route to a 25-19 defeat.
Friday’s semifinals are scheduled for 2:05 p.m. ET and 4:40 p.m., with Saturday’s bronze match slated for 7 p.m. and the gold-medal final at 10:05 p.m.