MAAR LEADS CANADIAN CHARGE
Krakow, Poland , May 26 – Stephen Maar topped the scoring for Canada who put their opening match misery behind them to overpower Korea in straight-sets (25-20 25-17 25-19) and set themselves up perfectly for a clash with Poland on Sunday.
Maar may have ended this straightforward victory with 12 points but there were also impressive contributions from Graham Vigrass (11 points) and Bradley Gunter (eight points) as the Canadian, who were excellent at the net earning eight blocks to just one from their opponents, recovered from losing to Russia on Friday by eventually seeing off a Korea side who battled hard but were ultimately outclassed.
Jiseok Jung with 11 points was the stand-out performer for Korea though too many errors, especially on serve, was their ultimate undoing and with Russia next up, those mistakes will need to be eradicated if a clean sweep of defeats is to be avoided.
With both teams suffering difficult starts to their VNL campaigns, it was imperative that improvements were the order of the day.
Canada came into the clash as favorites – their power game with an emphasis on high, hard hitting should have been too much for a Korean side whose approach is based around speed and accuracy.
Canadian captain Tyler Sanders, who plays his club volleyball in Poland, would have been pleased with a start which saw his side move 13-8 ahead with Gunter, who bagged 15 points in Friday’s defeat to Russia, and Vigrass both contributing well.
Sung-Min Moon began promisingly for the Koreans and it was his tenacity and doggedness which characterized the team spirit which saw their opponents restricted and unable to stretch out a comprehensive lead.
Too often, however, solid play wasn’t backed up with a serve and when Nicholas Hoag smashed home after initially producing a brilliant block to make it 22-16, the writing was very much on the wall.
One set point was saved but when the next chance arose, Gunter rose superbly to put coach Stephane Antiga’s team in the driving seat. An impressive 17 spikes from the Canadians was key although six service errors from both also told its own story.
Canada were producing the kind of form which saw the USA beaten to the bronze medal in last year’s World League though the second set was scrappy with more mistakes creeping in on both sides of the net. Sanders finally opened his account to snatch the lead away from Korea and make it 10-9 in what continued to be a very tight encounter.
Yet the Canadians continued to hold the upper hand with the points being nicely spread out in what was a supreme team effort from Antiga’s side. Korean wing spiker Jung was doing his best but, ultimately, was fighting a losing battle.
Midway through the third set, Korea had just one block compared to five from Canada with the error count for both teams hitting 34.
The Korean serve, however, kept letting them down and stopped Kim Hochul’s men from making inroads into their opponent’s lead which was beginning to look insurmountable and the result was confirmed by a superb Hoag block on match point.
Canada coach Stephane Antiga: “We played very well. Our goal was to win the game 3-0. We are ready for the next match tomorrow. We can play better but it will be difficult because we will face the team that just won against Russia.”
Canada player Graham Vigrass: “Today we were very good at defence, our spike was aggressive. Korea were good at digging and their block was high. We were hard in spike and this decided the score. For us it’s easy to play in Poland. We like competing here because the crowd is so good and they give us a lot of energy.”
Korea player Hwang Du Yeon: “I think that the atmosphere was really amazing during the match. y team struggled on the height difference. Polish and Canadian players are much taller than us. There was nothing new presented by the opposing team, but they are just a really good team with great skills.”
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