This entry is difficult to start… After not advancing from our pool in The Hague, I walked into the hotel and all those thoughts and feelings were immediately washed away by the shocking news the of Malaysian Airlines flight that departed from Amsterdam earlier that day. My deepest condolences go out to all those affected by this unthinkable event.
The past two weeks in Gstaad, Switzerland and Den Haag, Netherlands were physically draining, but in a good way.
I’ll begin briefly in Gstaad where we finished 17th. Qualification provided a fortunate opportunity for a rematch vs Latvia who eliminated us in Stavanger, Norway two weeks prior.
First we had to face a new Dutch team consisting of a new young blocker and a very successful veteran defender, Reinder Nummerdor. The first set was close but we pulled away in the second and closed it out 2-0 to advance and set up the Stavanger rematch vs Latvia. There was a group of Latvian fans watching the game, yelling and screaming here and there (mainly as I tossed the ball to hit my serve) but it added to the enjoyment of the match for me. We came away with a pretty smooth 2-0 win, erasing all stale memories of Stavanger.
Each year in Gstaad, Christian rents a three bedroom chalet in a perfect location right by the side courts. It winds up being cheaper than a hotel and provides the rare luxury of a full kitchen on the road. After qualifying, though, I opted to move my things into our free main draw hotel and what a good idea it was – a big bed, and a room decked out in wood with nice features and a great balcony overlooking the entrance to the hotel and the train station.
We finished 2nd in our pool with upset victories over 2nd ranked Italy, and 18th ranked Germany, but losing to 15th ranked Netherlands who won the pool. By the end of our time in the Main Draw it had appeared as though the rainy, cold weather brought us good fortune. The only time the sun showed up for us was in our first round of playoffs. Although we battled hard in the first set, fighting our way back to tie it at 20’s, our 7-foot friend from the south eventually eliminated us in straight sets, 22-20, 21-18 to finish up in 17th place.
My first visit to Switzerland in 2011 I met a family with a son named Maverick, since then we’ve stayed in touch with yearly visits every time I’m in the country. They drove up to Gstaad in time to catch our final pool play and first playoff matches, and later that night I met them for dinner to wrap things up in Gstaad.
Heading into The (windy) Hague we were feeling good having continually improved over the past month, and scoring some big wins, too. The Hague’s do-or-die qualification meant two matches to get into the Main Draw as we were ranked 10th. It wasn’t until the list was confirmed that we knew who we would be playing, and sure enough it was our new friends from Latvia yet again (for those of you keeping track, this was the third time in back-to-back-to-back tournaments we would play Latvia to qualify. The series tied at 1-1)
Our first match we faced South Africa for the first time and walked away with a shaky win in two sets. Our game against Latvia’s Plavins/Solovejs was on center court later in the day. We were feeling pretty good about our game plan after playing them in Gstaad. We also had the support of the other Canadian teams already in the main draw and were happy about that as we played a pretty solid game; qualifying in our second straight event for the first time this season.
Six of the eight qualification matches resulted in upsets so we found ourselves sitting at 27 in the Main Draw and drew Poland in our first pool play match. We went to distance with them after cruising to a first set win 21-16, but couldn’t pull it out in the third, losing 11-15. We also lost our second match, but luckily for us our final opponents also lost, which meant we still had a chance to make it out of pool.
Italy’s Ranghieri/Tomatis would be our final pool play match, a team we hang with often on tour and spent time with in Switzerland last year during a Coop Beachtour event. We had to win by a certain number of points in order to advance from pool play (we didn’t know exactly how many and just decided to show up and compete hard, try to win, then see what happens). We had played this team once before and beat them, but much has changed since then. Putting our previous game against USA behind us we opened up a lead in the first and closed it out 21-16. In the second we let our lead slip away and would eventually be tied up at 19s, then 20s, then on a controversial play (a joust at the net) we would eventually win 22-20.
After the match we were unsure if we did enough to advance. We knew Italy’s plus/minus was -5, as was ours. We didn’t know how the tiebreak was determined and waited until the FIVB website was updated. While waiting we had probably five or six conversations with other coaches and some players about who would advance, it was actually pretty comical as we got different answers from everyone. Well, the site finally updated, we were listed as 4th and walked into the Technical Director’s office to see how it all worked.
I got a handful of emails and messages from friends and family also asking what happened after they noticed our ratio’s were better in almost every category on the FIVB website. What wasn’t shown though was the method by which the FIVB determines a three-way tiebreak –
The way it works is that all tied teams’ points (for & against) are tallied, but only from the games between the tied teams (so in this case USA’s Italy’s, and our game against Poland would not count – which is included in the online ratio). Since this was the case, USA finished 2nd (1st in the tiebreak), and Italy finished 3rd (2nd in the tiebreak) with a point ratio just .01 better than ours (Italy .946, Canada .937)
What a difficult way to accept a 25th place finish. I don’t disagree with the system but it definitely shows you how important every point is in every pool play match. Christian and I thought back to each game and any controversial calls by referee’s, or missed plays by us… What a shitty spot to be in, and one I hope to be on the other side of the next time it may arise.
One play that just came back to me, against the USA, was the final play of the match. USA was handling us pretty good in the second set and at 12-20 Christian’s attack was blocked straight down by Doherty – out of instinct I kicked my foot out and covered it perfectly right on Christians head (a good enough play for Nick, mid rally, to compliment it, haha) but immediately after Doherty finished what he started, blocking me in transition to win the match. If I make that play, maybe we advance? One of many scenario’s… ugh…
Long Beach is up next, though, another $1Million purse event. My mom is flying out for it, too. This is one of two FIVB events on the season that Volleyball Canada will be sending a therapist to, so I’m pumped about that. My body has taken a beating over the past two weeks.
Qualifier starts Tuesday in Long Beach. As usual, check out www.volleyballsourcemag.net for all your scores, news updates, and online feeds.