Canada's performance marks a positive progression
Katowice, Poland, September 15, 2014 – Leaving the FIVB Men's Volleyball World Championship Poland 2014 with a best ever seventh-place finish should really be a good thing, but Canada leaving the tournament disappointed is actually a positive indicator of how far volleyball has come in the country of ice hockey and curling.
Right after the 3-0 defeat by Germany on Sunday night - a match where a Canada victory could have put them into the tournament's Final 6 - captain Frederic Winters said it was hard to comment positively, but knew that was something for the future.
"In a week or two, we can be proud," he said of Canada's overall campaign. "We beat some good teams and we showed a pretty hard level. We learned some things about the guys in our team and gained a lot of confidence, the future's bright for us."
Winters' coach Glenn Hoag was also disappointed with the result against Germany, principally because his team were not only well in contention throughout the match, but actually in control of the key first set, leading 16-12 at the second technical time-out.
"We started very well then we lost focus and made some technical mistakes, and the experience of the German team was bigger, they put a lot of pressure on us," said Hoag, lamenting his team's inability to adapt to the match situation. "We went away from our systems and if we go that way, we're a very ordinary team. We lost our focus and, at this level, there's no going back, Germany got momentum and their experience became too much for us."
Despite his disappointment, Hoag - like Winters - knows that Canada's World Championship performance at least marks a positive progression, something the 1984 Olympian is well placed to judge having taken charge of the Canada team back in 2006.
Before round two started, Brazil coach Bernardinho - who got first-hand experience against Canada at the 2013 World League Finals in Mar del Plata, Argentina - said that Hoag's team had consistently been progressing up the world rankings in the last few years and even assessed them as a "new power of volleyball".
"He's nice to say that," said Hoag. "A new force? I don't know, it's always difficult, we have to work hard against every opponent. We've worked hard for about eight years to build a programme with a very organised approach that is within our limits."
"We're not a volleyball country, we're a (ice) hockey country. Slowly we've made progress. Volleyball is school-based, not club-based in Canada and we have a small demographic compared to a country like the USA. These are the players I have and we try to do our best to improve them as fast as we can."
The highlight of that 2013 appearance at the World League Finals was a 3-2 pool win from 2-0 down over 2012 Olympic Games winners and eventual 2013 World League champions Russia, and it's that type of attitude and spirit that Hoag believes will take Canada forward from the fringes of the elite, into the elite. "Respect everyone and fear no-one; we'll live by that," he said.