Canada's sitting volleyball teams shone on Saturday at the world championships, with an opening victory against Slovenia on the women's side, while the men swept Poland after a three-set loss to Germany.
Eyeing a first-ever medal at the event, the Canadian women posted a 25-18, 25-21, 19-25, 25-22 win in Pool B action in Sarajevo.
"It was great to start the event with a win," said head coach Nicole Ban, whose group placed fourth at the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo. "We haven't seen [10th-ranked] Slovenia since the [Paralympic] qualifier in Halifax in early 2020 and both teams have improved a lot.
"We were able to play through the first-game nerves and compete under pressure when it mattered. We will continue to build as we have two tough opponents tomorrow."
The sixth-ranked Canadians will face the reigning Paralympic champions from the United States in the morning followed by a 2:30 p.m. ET date with No. 14 Iran in the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
"Our experience will be important as we will be tested right away in round robin play," Ban said this week, referring to the Americans. "Slovenia and Iran [are] tough competitors as well."
Canada lost to Brazil in the Paralympic bronze-medal game, a major improvement from its 2016 Summer Games debut in Rio, where it placed seventh.
#2 Julie Kozun — Melfort, Sask.
#3 Danielle Ellis (C) — White Rock, B.C.
#4 Jennifer Oakes — Calgary
#5 Payden Vair — Cardston, Alta.
#6 Angelena Dolezar — St. Albert, Alta.
#7 Anne Fergusson — Carleton Place, Ont.
#8 Jolan Wong — Vermilion, Alta.
#9 Sarah Melenka — Vegreville, Alta.
#10 Jayme Lepp — Vancouver
#11 Heidi Peters — Neerlandia, Alta.
#14 Katelyn Wright — Edmonton
#15 Felicia Voss-Shafiq — Burnaby, B.C.
#16 Jennifer McCreesh — Smithers, B.C.
#17 Allison Lang — Edmonton
The Canadian men took care of Poland by scores of 25-23, 25-16, 25-22.
"In our second match, we made some great adjustments due to the pace of play that Poland's veteran lineup showcased," explained head coach Jeff Smith. "Nasif Chowdhury came off the bench to be the catalyst in the 3-0 win.
Different stage of development
"Everyone played well and stuck to the game plan. It was a great team win for this group and now we reset and plan for Brazil [on Sunday]."
Canada didn't qualify for the 2020 Olympics and is at a different stage of development compared to the women.
Smith said the 13th-ranked Canadians have a plan in place to achieve their own goals in Sarajevo.
Canada will compete in Pool C with Brazil (No. 4), Germany (No. 8) and Poland (No. 16).
"We have developed a new offence that will suit us very well in our pool," said Smith. "We want to play a faster tempo game and rely on ball control and our defence as part of our equation for success.
"We have seen Germany, Brazil, and match up very well against Poland. Our goal is to finish top 10 at world championships and I believe the team we have can do so."
#2 Mikael Bartholdy — Calgary
#3 Austin Hinchey — Edmonton
#5 Nasif Chowdhury — Toronto
#6 Bryce Foster — Thunder Bay, Ont.
#7 Douglas Learoyd (C) — Calgary
#9 Andrew Tucker — Brampton, Ont.
#10 Christopher Bird — Brandon, Man.
#11 José Rebelo — Saint-Hubert, Que.
#13 Dariusz Symonowicz — Toronto
#14 Connor Compton — Calgary
#19 Jason Beaman — Vancouver