Canadian men's volleyball team qualifies for Olympic Games | iNFOnews

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Canadian men's volleyball team qualifies for Olympic Games

June 05, 2016 - 6:35 AM

TOKYO - After nearly a quarter century of waiting, Canada’s men’s volleyball team has qualified for the Summer Olympics.

Canada beat China in five sets on Sunday to get within sight of its first Olympic berth since 1992 in Barcelona, but had to wait a few more hours for Poland to knock off Australia in straight sets to start celebrating.

"It feels like joy," said libero Dan Lewis, who at 40 is the oldest member of the team. "It feels like something that just gave you the shivers. You feel good and you don’t really have to explain it. You can’t help but think about everybody that’s been a part of this program."

The Canadians won their match against China 25-16, 20-25, 24-26, 25-20, 15-9 at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium. However, they needed Poland, which had qualified earlier in the tournament, to beat Australia to earn their ticket to this summer's Rio Games.

Canada finished fourth overall to join Poland, France and Iran as the tournament's three other Olympic qualifiers.

"I wasn’t even sure that I was going to make it to this tournament," said Gavin Schmitt, who started for Canada after recently undergoing surgery for a stress fracture in his leg.

Schmitt had been sidelined when Canada failed to qualify in January after finishing second to Cuba in a tournament in Edmonton.

"I had to watch the last qualification on TV as the guys went through it and I’m just so proud of the guys that we came to the tournament with," he said.

Gord Perrin of Creston, B.C., led the way with 25 points in the attack and one block while Schmitt, from Grande Prairie, Alta., had 23 points, including a few late aces.

Needing a win or at least a five-set loss to keep its Olympic dreams alive, Canada looked comfortable in the first set and was aided by mistakes in China's service reception. Canada easily took the set in just over 20 minutes.

Roles were reversed in the second set with Canada making the mistakes and China building a lead that grew to as much as six points. Canada was able to cut the deficit to three points but China closed strong.

Canada unravelled in the third set. Just five points away from losing, China suddenly came alive to outscore Canada 11-4 in the final 15 points of the set.

Both teams' Olympic hopes were hanging in the balance in the fourth with Canada needing at least a point from the game and China knowing it couldn't allow it to go to five sets.

Canada reeled off a few points in a row to go up 19-16 and, unlike the previous set, saw out the final few points that eliminated China.

With their Olympic hopes dashed, China looked deflated as Canada went up 8-2 early with a few aces from Schmitt and finished off the fifth set to collect two crucial points.

"To see them rebound in game after game, I’m so proud," said head coach Glenn Hoag, who competed for Canada at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. "It was really a team effort."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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