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June 06, 2023 – Canada started its 2023 Volleyball Nations League campaign on the right path on Tuesday by prevailing over Cuba 3-2 (25-21, 26-28, 25-21, 22-25, 15-13) in over two hours of play at Ottawa’s Arena at TD Place.

In a rematch between rivals from the NORCECA region, Canada’s block proved crucial, and they also took advantage of Cuba’s errors (35 vs. 24). Ryan Sclater and Stephen Maar led the Canadian output with 27 and 18 points, respectively.

Jesus Herrera was the main scorer for Cuba with 28, followed by Miguel Angel Lopez and Marlon Yant with 15 each.

After taking the opening set, Canada look set for a sweep, but Cuba rebounded from a five-point deficit (17-22) to take the second set 28-26 and tie the match.

Both teams exchanged the lead in the third set, but Luke Herr’s efficient serve in the latter stages paid the way for a Canadian victory 25-22.

Both squads remained even in the fourth set. Cuba moved away in the latter stages with strong performances by Jesus Herrera and Marlon Yant to win 25-22 and set the stage for a tie-break.

Canada regained the momentum in the decisive set, Maar and Sclater put the team 6-3 ahead and extended it to 14-11. Cuba came back 13-14, but Sclater sealed the overall win with another strong spike.

“Five sets, four sets or three sets. You never know how the game is going. We had chances to win the second set. We came back. We have to keep the spirit always. No matter if you are leading, if you are losing, keep fighting, focus on one rally at a time. We still need to improve the relation between spikers and setters, our serve and block. We defended a lot of balls today. We can still do better, but it’s a great start. Happy to see the crowd and the opponents will only get stronger and stronger. It’s a tough week. We will take one game at a time,” said the Canadian head coach Tuomas Sammelvuo.

The top Canadian scorer Ryan Sclater said: “It is always great to start with the win. There is always going to be a lot of technical things to fix. We stayed together as a team, kept fighting and we were ready at the end. I am glad we had the right spirit to start off.” Regarding their next opponents this week in Ottawa, “you can’t take any team lightly. Every win is so valuable for VNL. I just to want to take one game at a time and not look too far ahead.”

For Stephen Maar, “we did a good job in the basic skills we have been working on. There were a lot of balls we were looking at each other and we know we are able to get these balls. It is encouraging to get the win. That’s a great thing, but I am pretty happy with the quality of volleyball we played. For me, I am trying to take this tournament on a week by week basis. I want to improve the quality of volleyball for myself, what is asked of me, and that of my teammates”.

Canada plays Olympic bronze medallists Argentina on Friday, followed by 2022 VNL silver medallists the United States on Saturday and Germany on Sunday.

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Photo: VolleyballWorld

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Jackie Skender
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