National News

Canada defeats Belgium in three sets

By Mark Janzen, The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER - Canada's men's volleyball team used dominant blocking and a balanced attack to defeat Belgium in three sets in FIVB World League action Friday.

Canada had 12 blocks to Belgium's three and had three players with eight or more kills as the home side controlled the match from start to finish en route to a 25-15, 25-21, 25-21 win at UBC's Doug Mitchell Sports Centre.

Gavin Schmitt led the way for Canada with an impressive overall effort that included 16 kills, three blocks and two aces. Fittingly, it was Schmitt scoring the match-winning point on a crushing ace.

Canada's Fred Winters and Gord Perrin had eight kills each while Adam Simac had a match-high four blocks.

Belgium's Kevin Klinkenberg had eight kills to lead the visitors, who were playing in their first road match of the World League competition after opening with back-to-back home weekends.

"We came out really focused in this game and started with a lot of attitude," Schmitt said. "It was great having the home crowd behind us, but it's really on us to make sure our heads are in the right space. We've been working on cleaning up some little technical things and polishing our game and I think some of the things that we made mistakes on in other games, we were a lot better on in this game."

With the win, Canada collects a crucial three points that puts them in a tie with Belgium for top spot in Pool C. The Canadians are now 4-1 and have 10 points through their first five matches while the Belgians are 3-2, but also possess 10 points.

"We are happy with the win obviously," said Canadian coach Glen Hoag. "Overall, our block defence was good ... and I thought the guys were disciplined. Our serving was OK, but we (still) need to become a better serving team."

Serving was the one of the few areas that saw Belgium with the advantage, as the visitors had six aces to Canada's three.

On the strength of a balanced offence, the Canadians raced out to a 5-1 first set lead and never trailed. With Canada up by four at the second technical timeout, the home side went on a 7-1 run blowing the set wide open before cruising to a 10-point win.

Similar to the first set, it was Canada taking an early lead and holding Belgium off throughout. Schmitt added six kills in the second set alone to pace Canada to a four-point win.

The third set was much tighter from the outset but, like the first two frames, it was Canada's block and the efforts of Schmitt guiding the team to the win.

"Canada was much better than we were and they played really well on the attack and we couldn't do anything about it," said Belgium coach Dominique Baeyens. "I think my team didn't have the same energy that we had last week and when you play a team like Canada, you know it'll be a difficult story."

Canada will look to complete the weekend sweep over Belgium on Saturday.

"If we can take both games, then our fate is in our own hands," Schmitt said. "I know (Belgium) will come back tomorrow a lot better and fired up. It's going to be a tough one tomorrow, so we need to maintain our focus and play hard."

Along with Belgium, Canada is in Pool C with Australia and Finland.

The top team in the pool after the 12-match round robin will advance to the Final Four in Australia. The winner of the Final Four qualifies for the World League Final Six in Florence, Italy in July.

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