Gavin Schmitt of Saskatoon and Fred Winters of Victoria were the offensive stars for Canada on Wednesday in a 25-21, 25-17, 25-21 victory over world number-five Cuba at the Olympic qualifying tournament in menâ€™s volleyball.
The Canadians, ranked 18th internationally, finish in first place in Group B with a perfect 3-0 mark and get a bye to the semifinal on Friday.Â Cuba places second at 2-1 and faces Trinidad and Tobago in a quarterfinal match on Thursday.
The tournament winner qualifies for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
â€˜â€™We had a really good beat on Cubaâ€™s offensive strategies,â€™â€™ said Canadian setter Josh Howatson of Victoria.Â â€˜â€™We made very few errors and our passing was especially strong.Â With every match we’ve played a harder opponent and we’ve gotten better too.â€™â€™
Schmitt produced 21 points for the Canadians while Winters added 16 and was a perfect 15-for-15 attacking.Â Toon Van Lankvelt of Rivers, Man., had eight points and led the Canadians with four successful blocks.
â€˜â€™Itâ€™s a total team victory,â€™â€™ said Canadaâ€™s head coach Glenn Hoag of Gatineau, Que.Â â€˜â€™We have a system that the players believe in and every one played their role.Â That was the biggest highlight for me.Â Weâ€™ve seen this team grow for six years and these are the kind of performances we knew we were capable of.â€™â€™
The Canadians capitalized on six service errors by the Cubans in the first set to grab a 1-0 lead in sets.Â A five point run late in the second that included three offensive errors by the Cubans put the Canadians up for good.Â The third set was the Gavin Schmitt show as he collected 10 of his 21 points.
In Wednesdayâ€™s other matches, Puerto Rico defeated the Dominican Republic 25-15, 25-18, 25-15 for third place in Group B and a quarterfinal berth.Â In Group A, Trinidad and Tobago beat Costa Rica 25-18, 25-23, 25-19 for third spot. The U.S., faced Mexico for top spot later Wednesday.
The second and third place teams in each group crossover for Thursdayâ€™s quarterfinal.Â The semis are on Friday and the medal matches Saturday.
Story from the Volleyball Canada Website | Volleyball.ca