Canada won the NORCECA Women’s Continental Championship bronze medal. (FIVB/Special to the Langley Advance Times)

Langley volleyball player helps secure bronze in Puerto Rico

Women medal at NORCECA, while men’s team is playing the worlds in Hiroshima, Japan

Langley volleyball player Brie King joined her teammates on the podium, accepting their bronze medals in Puerto Rico this weekend.

King was joined by four other B.C. team members playing for Canada at the NORCECA Women’s Continental Championship this past week, and they beat out the hosts from San Juan on Sunday, by the score of 3-0 to take the third place spot.

The victory was especially sweet as Volleyball Canada had lost to Puerto Rico 3-0 earlier in the tournament, and in the 2015 edition the team lost the bronze to Puerto Rico 3-1, said Canada’s coach Ben Josephson.

“The difference from our first match against Puerto Rico is three things: my staff really worked hard to make sure we learned from what we didn’t do, they got it to the athletes and the players digested to execute it well,” Josephson said.

The first set had its share of drama, as Canada missed five-set points 24-19 and Puerto Rico’s strength in serves and powerful kills managed to even the set at 24. Overall, Canada led with huge 42-25 margin in attacks, 8-6 in blocks and 8-4 in aces. Puerto Rico committed fewer errors (18-22).

Alexa Gray was Canada’s top scorer with a match-high 21 points on 17 kills and four blocks; Kiera Van Ryk of Surrey had 13 points including four aces, and Emily Maglio of Coquitlam contributed 12 points. Puerto Rico’s top scorer was Paulina Prieto with 10 points.

“We always want to peak once we get to playoffs and I think we did a great job following our game plan,” said Gray, out of Calgary.

“Our serving pressure the first time we faced Puerto Rico wasn’t as good and today it dialed in, hitting our spots and put them in trouble. I am proud of how we recovered in the third set. We have a lot of heart and in January we will give it our all.”

At this tournament, Canada also secured a spot in the January 2020 zonal Olympic qualifier.

The Dominican Republic ended up in gold-medal position, while the U.S. took silver after a five-set match Sunday evening.

This is Canada’s ninth bronze medal in the history of the event of an overall 11 medals (two silvers). The last time Canada reached the NORCECA podium was in 1999 winning bronze.

RECENT COVERAGE: Trinity Western players helped Team Canada win at world volleyball competition

While the women’s team earned some bragging rights and bling, the men representing Canada fell to a more polished Poland team in the World Cup competition unfolding in Japan.

Poland, currently in second place of the 12-team FIVB World Cup, beat Canada 3-0 (25-23, 26-24, 25-20) Monday at Hiroshima’s Green Arena.

Canada’s men’s team – which include’s Langley’s Daniel Jansen Vandoorn and some other Trinity Western University alumni – didn’t make it easy for Poland, threatening early on, but the Europeans showed their experience and dominated in blocking (14-3), and made fewer errors than Canada. Canada’s Sharone Vernon-Evans was top scorer with 19 points, said Canada’s men’s coach, Dan Lewis.

“Poland have repeatedly shown us this year why they are one of the best teams in the world, if not the best, and there’s always a lesson to take away after you play this team,” Lewis said.

“I’m extremely proud of our team today. It’s the 10th match of the tournament and they’re fighting so hard for every point. They executed extremely well for 80 percent of every set, and the last 20 percent we need to refine our game a little bit, and when we do that, when we find this 20 percent – after 20 (points), basically – then we’re going to be able to compete with the best.”

Poland has won eight out of their 10 matches so far.

Brazil is undefeated in number one position with one match left.

Canada’s captain Nicholas Hoag said after Monday’s match: “I think this was a pretty good match for us. We were tight with Poland in all three sets, against one of the best teams in the world, which is very important with this young group. I think we just need to polish some of the last few details at the end of sets, especially after 20 (points). We had the opportunity to win at least two out of three sets, and the game would have changed after that. Overall, I’m pretty satisfied with the game we had today. But, like I said, just the small details that Poland didn’t miss at the end of those sets, and they ended up winning.”

Canada has four wins and six losses, with one match left, against host Japan (7-3).

The 12 participating teams in the FIVB World Cup are competing a single round-robin competition over 11 match days. Three games are played at each venue each match day.

The World Cup was last held in 2015 – Canada finished seventh overall.

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