LONG BEACH, Calif. — The Canadian men’s volleyball team just missed out on its first Olympic berth in 20 years.
Canada played three competitive sets against the United States before losing to the defending Olympic gold medallists 28-26, 25-18, 25-20 Saturday night in the final of the NORCECA Olympic men’s qualifying tournament at Long Beach State University.
With the victory, the United States qualifies for the London Games. Canada was seeking its first Olympic berth since 1992.
“It was a tough match,” Canada’s Fred Winters said. “We haven’t played them in so long that we don’t know how we stack up against them. Obviously, we can play with them.”
Canada reached the NORCECA final after sweeping its three opponents in group play — including fifth-ranked Cuba — and rallying for a quarter-final victory over Puerto Rico.
“This is a good sign,” coach Glenn Hoag said, adding Canada is progressing towards a berth at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. “We still have a lot of work to do. Our aim, really, is 2016.”
In the first set, both teams tied the score 14 times and exchanged the lead five times, with Canada forcing set point four times before the United States’ Reid Priddy made two consecutive kills for the win.
Red Deer’s Dallas Soonias, in his first tournament start, had nine kills and a service ace in the set.
“We made some stupid mistakes in the first set,” Winter said. “We don’t have the same quality in all six positions on the court so we have to make up for it with mental toughness and smarts.”
Canada narrowed a 20-12 deficit in the second set to 21-16 behind two kills and a block assist from Soonias. But two service errors helped the United States build a 23-17 lead. In the third set, Canada held a 9-7 lead when the United States went on a 7-2 surge to move ahead, 14-11. Canada drew within 22-20 but another service error combined with Matt Anderson’s two kills ended the match.
Soonias led Canada with 17 kills and Winters added 12 kills.Anderson pounded 13 kills for the United States, Clayton Stanley had 12 kills and two service aces, and David Lee had seven kills and five blocks.
“We showed a lot of great things over this week,” Hoag said. “But we’re still a team that sometimes lacks finish and some confidence and that can’t happen when you play a team like the U.S.”