The Canadian women's volleyball team made a heroic showing, but let a 2-0 lead slip away on Sat., Aug. 30. The team lost 3-2 to the more experienced Japanese team at the 2003 Summer Universiade in Daegu.
This match was a much anticipated event for the Canadians, having spent a week in Osaka in August training with the Japanese team before coming to Korea. While in Japan, the Canadians managed to take some sets off the Japanese team, but were never able to actually walk away with a full victory. According to University of Calgary's Tracy Keats, their coaches had been hard at work crafting an attack plan that would shake Japan's defenses and give Canada a shot at victory.
"We know Japan a little better than we knew the other teams we've played from training with them, so we were really prepared for this game," Keats said. "Our coaches did a great job of putting together a game plan for us and we followed it exactly."
Canada dominated the first set with solid play. Kills from the U of C's Amanda Moppett and Keats put the Canucks ahead early. The Canadians continued to hammer hard at the Japanese until they gained a 23-19 lead. The Japanese regrouped their block and tried to fight back, bringing the score back to 24-23. With a powerside shocker launched by captain Tammy Mahon (from the University of Manitoba), the Canadians took the set 25-23.
Leading for most of the second set, Canada got a bit tentative on the net after a violation at 19-18, letting Japan squeeze into a 22-22 tie. The teams matched each other point for point until Canada pulled ahead with another kill from Mahon and a pair of errors by Japan to take the set 27-25.
Head Coach Normand Bouchard from Sherbrooke was proud of his team's performance.
"It was a really tactical game," said Bouchard. "We were finding the right angles."
Moppett echoed the coach's comments.
"We knew what to expect, and we finally played our best ball," said Moppett.
The Canadians may have caught the Japanese off guard with their prepared defenses but the Japanese were ready to mix things up in the third set.
"They're such a good team," said Moppett. "They were able to adjust to us and come up with new plays that we had never seen from them."
The Japanese stole the set 25-16 by taking advantage of Canadas weak defenses and poor communication on the court.
The fourth set, while an improvement on the third, demonstrated Japan's defensive supremacy, with them returning virtually every attack Canada hurled at them. The Candians were unable to match the Japanese digging, one of the main factors leading to the loss, according to Moppett.
"We're such a strong hitting team that we're used to hitting and then being done," said Moppett. "They're such a good team defensively that everything keeps coming up. It was draining at times."
Tha Japanese thwarted the Canadians' attempted kills and took the set 25-11 tying the match at two sets apiece.
The Canadians trailed early in the fifth set but managed to tie the match up at 8-8. They couldn't block the advance, however, and the Japanese took the set 15-11.
Bouchard was not dismayed by the loss, and expressed pride in his team's performance.
"We had good execution, we went for every ball," said Bouchard. "It was the best game we've played."
Moppett was likewise impressed.
"It shows really well on us that we were able to take them to five [sets] and that we had lots of chances to win," stated Moppett with a grin.
Bouchard and his players were glad to have the experience of playing against Japan.
"People play volleyball for these kind of games," the coach explained. "They push you and improve you."
Canada will battle Italy tomorrow for 11th place.