The Canadian men's volleyball team earned its first win at the 2019 Summer Universiade on Monday afternoon at Nocera's Palacoscioni, beating Iran 3-2 in a highly-contested battle.
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Down 2-1 after three, the Canadians finished strong in the fourth and fifth sets, allowing them to prevail over the defending champions of the 2017 Summer Universiade in Taipei, while giving them a boost of confidence for the remainder of the tournament.
“It definitely means a lot to get the win,” said middle blocker John Moate. “We’ve been in a tough pool and battling hard. We’ve talked about resiliency, and this is what this game was about. This is really what we needed, it feels really good.
“The last couple of games we’ve had problems on serving, so today we just opted to go with all float services. We really put them under pressure, as they couldn’t handle them too much,” added the Windsor Lancer.
Canada did play a solid game all-around, but especially at the net where they piled up 19 blocks, more than double than Iran’s tally (9).
“It all starts from the service pressure. When they’re all over the place, it’s easier to key on certain guys as we know where that ball is going to go.”
Canada started the game with conviction, playing with the Iranians until 10-10, before falling flat for a few points, allowing Iran to take a slight lead of 16-12 at the technical break. They would carry that advantage until the end of the set, which they took 25-20.
The Canadians had their best moments of the tournament so far in the second frame. Efficient in both service and attack, the men in Red and White were particularly good at blocking, leaving simply no space for the Iranian hitters. As a result, Canada had a series of seven unanswered points in the middle of the set, taking it by 25-18.
The third set was a tight affair, with Iran getting to the technical timeout first at 16-15. The battle continued throughout the frame, but the reigning Universiade champions took a 2-1 lead in the match by a score of 25-23.
The Canadians dictated the pace in the fourth, quickly taking 8-5 and 16-11 leads. They then cruised to a 25-17 set win, forcing a fifth and deciding set.
The same momentum allowed Canada to take 8-4 and 11-7 leads in the fifth and they didn’t look back, taking the set 15-10.
Three Canadians reached the double digits in the kills column, including Dylan Mortensen (16), Craig Ireland (15) and Moate (13). Moate added five blocks and three aces to his productive afternoon.
The Canadians will conclude group play on Tuesday against Poland (3-0) at 11:30 a.m. EDT / 8:30 a.m. PDT (5:30 p.m. local time). The challenge will be great, as the Poles have not lost a single set so far in this competition.