Lausanne, Switzerland, July 12, 2016 - Canada’s volleyball fans are being spoilt with news of their team's successes at the moment. First, the men’s national team qualified for the Olympic Games for the first time in 24 years. Then, on Sunday, coach Glenn Hoag’s men won FIVB World League Group 2, meaning the Canadians will take their place among the world’s best teams in Group 1 in 2017.
The performance was acknowledged on social media. Canadian Olympic TV broadcaster CBC also celebrated the win on its platform: “Canadian men's volleyball team captures World League gold. Olympic-bound Canadians heading to Rio on high note. Canada's men put the volleyball world on notice with a gold-medal finish in a Rio tune-up tournament in Portugal.” After the 3-0 victory over Turkey in the semifinal, the Canadian team also emphatically defeated hosts Portugal 3-0 (25-19, 25-22, 25-15) in Matosinhos. At the end of the prestigious tournament, the players could listen on proudly from the top step of the podium as the Canadian national anthem was played.
The delighted players could hardly keep their eyes off the trophy – a particularly important one for the country.
“I am very happy because this is our first major title. We played focused, without any errors or letting anything stop us from the objective to win. I am very proud of the group as they worked as a team and played disciplined volleyball. This concludes an important part of our summer,” said coach Glenn Hoag. His team were clearly the best of the twelve countries that made up World League Group 2. The Canadians’ only defeat in this season’s competition came against Finland in five sets. However, they were already guaranteed a place in the final round by that point.
In the final against Portugal, outside hitters Gordon Perrin (19 points) and Nicholas Hoag (14) were the top scorers in a well-oiled team, which was never really under threat, even without superstar Gavin Schmitt. Portuguese captain Alexandre Ferreira was also impressed: “Canada played very well and they are a very good team.”
The Canadians will now look forward to their next major goal: the Olympic Games in Rio. “I like the way the team played, given that we were training quite hard both physically and technically to get ready for Rio. Now let us aim for the 2016 Olympic Games,” said head coach Hoag. The players also have just one thing on their mind following their success in Portugal. “Now we are curious to know which players will be selected for Rio 2016,” said Canada’s captain Frederic Winters. “We want to try to pull off a few surprises in Rio. It will be a difficult task, but anything is possible.”
Canada will play in a difficult Group A in Rio – together with hosts Brazil, FIVB World Cup winners USA, 2015 FIVB World League winners France, the impressive Italians and outsiders Mexico. It would be a shock in its own right were they to progress to the quarterfinals as one of the top four teams in the group. However, the Canadians should not be written off too quickly. In 1984, they finished fourth at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, narrowly missing out on a medal. Hoag was part of the team back then. He knows the Olympic experience and is thrilled to be going back for more as a coach.
"It's a dream for volleyball in Canada. To be part of the 12 best in the world is just amazing,” he said in an interview. The team will leave for Rio in late July and play a final few warm-up games against club teams in Brazil. The teams in the top flight of the volleyball world will need to keep these Canadians on their radar.