Sports

Border battle for gold goes in favour of U.S.

Team U.S.A.’s Sean Rooney (left to right), William Priddy and Erik Shoji celebrate during their 3-0 victory over Team Canada in the gold medal match at the 2013 NORCECA men’s volleyball Continental championships at the Langley Events Centre on Saturday night. The week-long event featured nine countries competing for the gold medal.  - Derek Stevens Sportfoto.ca
Team U.S.A.’s Sean Rooney (left to right), William Priddy and Erik Shoji celebrate during their 3-0 victory over Team Canada in the gold medal match at the 2013 NORCECA men’s volleyball Continental championships at the Langley Events Centre on Saturday night. The week-long event featured nine countries competing for the gold medal.
— image credit: Derek Stevens Sportfoto.ca

Despite having the backing of the home crowd, Canada could not pull off the storybook ending, falling in straight sets to the United States.

The two teams were playing in the gold medal match at the 2013 NORCECA men’s volleyball Continental championships, which concluded on Saturday night at the Langley Events Centre.

NORCECA is made up of teams from North America, Central America and Caribbean regions of the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB).

“It feels unbelievably good,” said U.S. coach John Speraw.

“The goal was to win and we knew it would be a challenge because Canada has been playing some good volleyball.

“At the end of the day, the most important tournament we play in, besides the Olympics themselves, is the NORCECA tournament.

“For us to come in here and win like we did is a wonderful achievement for our program.”

The Canadians best chance came in the opening set as they held a 19-16 advantage, but the Americans — ranked first in NORCECA and fifth in the  FIVB world rankings — rallied to tie the score at 21. The teams traded points to 23-23 before the U.S. scored the final two to win 25-23.

Canada struggled to get their offence going after that first set as Gord Perrin and Dallas Soonias were held to seven kills apiece. And the team’s game plan changed after losing captain Fred Winters with an ankle injury, which affected their passing game.

And that gave the American side momentum for the rest of the way as they won set two 25-20 and took the third set 25-14.

The U.S. were led by tournament MVP Matt Anderson, who had an impressive final game with 14 kills and three aces.

The Canadians — who had relied on their blocking game in winning their three matches without dropping a set en route to the championship final — had no answer for Anderson.

The U.S. also out-blocked their Canadian counterparts 10-6.

“I am more disappointed in how we played,” said coach Glenn Hoag.

“We committed too many unforced errors. At this level, you can’t do that.”

With the victory, the U.S. qualified for the FIVB Grand Champions Cup, which will be held in Japan in November.

In the end, it was another learning experience for the Canadians, who had a big summer, knocking off the second-ranked Russian side — the defending Olympic gold medalists — and climbing from 18th to 11th in the FIVB rankings.

Canada was ranked third in NORCECA, but upset No. 2 Cuba in the semifinals on Friday night. Cuba then defeated Puerto Rico 3-2 (27-29,25-27,25-20,27-15,15-12) in the bronze medal match.

Canada’s Rudy Verhoeff had a great return to Langley, winning the tournament’s top blocker award and also earning all-star accolades.

Verhoeff played at Trinity Western University, helping the Spartans win CIS national championships in both 2011 and 2012.

And while it has been a great few months for the program, he said the players are disappointed.

“Obviously we are disappointed,” Verhoeff said. “Our goal was to win so to come up short is tough.”

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