Ottawa fans showed support all weekend for team Canada at Volleyball Nations League

Photos courtesy of FIVB / Volleyball Nations League 2018

Ottawa, fortunate to be one of the 21 host cities selected for this year’s Volleyball Nations League competition, welcomed the United States, Germany, Australia and Canada men’s national volleyball teams for Week 3 of VNL 2018. TD Place Arena was transformed into a cathedral of volleyball this past weekend as fans poured in to catch a glimpse of some high-flying volleyball action.

Team Canada disappointing weekend on home soil

After a successful Week 2 for team Canada in San Juan, Argentina—three wins out of three—team Canada were relishing the opportunity to play in front of a supportive crowd in Ottawa. Unfortunately, the home support could only help Canada to a 1-2 record on the weekend.

On the opportunity to play on home soil, “I think we’re all super excited to be home, and you see we were a little bit antsy at the beginning of the game,” said team captain TJ Sanders after Canada’s win over team Australia 3-0 (25-19, 26-24, 25-19) on the opening day.

The Canadian team were given an extra boost this weekend with the inclusion of Gavin Schmitt, a veteran of the Canadian men’s national volleyball team with over 150 selections at the international level. Schmitt was happy to back even though in “smaller role.”

“It’s good to be back with the guys, obviously in a smaller role,” said Schmitt.

“The guys are playing really well and my goal [is] to just help out in any way I can.”

Schmitt got his first start of the competition against Germany on Saturday night, but Germany were confident coming off their win against the U.S. and took the first two sets against Canada.

Canada looked dejected in the third set after going down 9-16. Off the back of the home support, Canada roared back to eventually take the set 25-20 winning a number of exciting points along the way—Nicholas Hoag’ace serve at 22-20 and Bradley Gunter’s spike on set point.

Sanders touched on the support of the crowd in the third set after the match against Germany.

“We didn’t start so strong tonight, but I think it was in the middle of the third set and ‘Let’s Go Canada’ started and it really helped us grind.”

The third-set win wasn’t enough for Canada to mount a comeback eventually losing the match in four sets 1-3 (23-25, 22-25, 25-20, 19-20).

In a rematch of the 2017 FIVB Volleyball World League third-place match, Canada faced North American rivals the United States on the final day of VNL in Ottawa.

Canada won the previous encounter a little less than a year ago but could not repeat that result this time around as Canada lost to United States 1-3 (25-23, 13-25, 19-25, 20-25).

It was a disappointing end for team Canada who don’t get the opportunity to play on home soil often. Canada’s coach Stéphane Antiga said after their final match in Ottawa, “We were expecting two wins [this weekend].”

The VNL brought the party to Ottawa

It was a party atmosphere inside TD Place Arena for the entire weekend, but especially so for Canada’s matches. Fans came ready to cheer on team Canada all weekend and witness some world-class volleyball.

A DJ pumped music in between points and got the crowd clapping and cheering in choreographed celebrations after super spikes, monster blocksand mega rallies, terms special to VNL events.

Large crowds of over 3,000 greeted the VNL on each of the three days, with the largest crowd coming on Sunday afternoon (4,106).

On Sunday, the festivities turned up a level when the Grammy award-winning Australian DJ twin-sister duo NERVO graced TD Place Arena for the marquee matchup between Canada and the U.S. and to debut VNL’s new official anthem “Worlds Collide.”

It’s safe to say Ottawa volleyball fans would be happy to have the opportunity to take part in another VNL events in the future.

The rest of the action on the court

Despite the party atmosphere, the action on the court was fiercely competitive as each team earned at least one win in Ottawa.

Germany, who arrived in Ottawa with a losing record, surprised many with impressive wins over the United States and Canada and jumped three spots to ninth in the VNL standings. David Sossenheimer was especially key to Germany’s success leading the scoring (13) against the United States and scoring 12 points in the deciding set against Canada.

Australia won only a single set in their first two matches of the weekend but ended the weekend on a high, with a win over Germany in a five-set thriller on Sunday afternoon. The Australian team endeared themselves to the crowd as their bench participated along in celebrations after mega blocksand super spikes.

The United States had a disappointing start to the weekend with a straight-set loss to Germany in the opening match. It looked like more disappointment was headed the United States’ way after dropping the first set of their second match to Australia, but the U.S. were able to respond beating Australia 3-1 in the end. After the weekend, the U.S. dropped one spot to fourth.

What’s next for team Canada in the VNL

Team Canada will travel to Varna, Bulgaria to face two of the best teams in the competition (Brazil and France) and Bulgaria from June 15-17 and then Jiangmen, China the following weekend for their final three matches on the preliminary round.

After the weekend in Ottawa, team Canada dropped two spots to eighth. They will need to improve their play if they want to finish the preliminary round in the top five and qualify for the finals in Lille, France starting July 4.