Canadian women outlast 2016 Olympic champs China in Volleyball Nations League

·3 min read
Opposite hitter Kiera van Ryk, right, keyed Canada's five-set victory over China, the reigning Olympic champions, on Tuesday in Volleyball Nations League play in Rimini, Italy. The Canadians (1-4) face Germany on Wednesday at 6:45 a.m. ET. (Submitted by volleyballworld.com - image credit)
Opposite hitter Kiera van Ryk, right, keyed Canada's five-set victory over China, the reigning Olympic champions, on Tuesday in Volleyball Nations League play in Rimini, Italy. The Canadians (1-4) face Germany on Wednesday at 6:45 a.m. ET. (Submitted by volleyballworld.com - image credit)

Same scenario, different result.

Canada's women, again, held a two sets to one advantage in Volleyball Nations League action on Tuesday as they did 24 hours earlier in Rimini, Italy.

But rather than repeat a late-match collapse against Turkey and lose momentum, the Canadians drew even midway through a fifth and deciding set and took charge against China on the way to a 15-12 victory over the 2016 Olympic champions.

"We said in the beginning that we wanted to improve on every game throughout VNL and after losing a tough game against Turkey yesterday in five sets, today we did exactly that and were able to close out the fifth set against China," head coach Shannon Winzer said of Canada's first win in five attempts in its VNL debut.

"Today feels good, it's nice to get our first win in a tough competition."

WATCH | Canada posts 1st win in its Volleyball Nations League debut:

Canada faces Germany on Wednesday at 6:45 a.m. ET, a match that will be live streamed at CBCSports.ca.

Canada held leads of 3-2 and 5-4 to begin Tuesday's final set, only to watch its opponent claw back. China looked to be pulling away after going up 7-5 but the Canadians quickly drew even at 8-8 on a Hilary Howe ace. Canada went ahead 10-8 on a huge Cassie Bujan dig that led to one of Kiera van Ryk's team-leading 25 points.

'We're in full control of this game'

A pair of van Ryk kills, the first clocked at 87.8 kilometres per hour, extended Canada's lead to 13-10 but China closed to within one on an ace before Winzer signaled for a timeout.

"Pretend it's 5-5," she told her charges. "We're in full control of this game. We don't have to change anything."

[Monday] we lost a five-setter, but today we knew how to come back and fight as a team. — Canada outside hitter Andrea Mitrovic on Tuesday's win over China

China subsequently served into the net to put the Canadians up 14-12. Emily Maglio and Howe then teamed at the net for a huge block to give Canada its first win of the preliminary round.

Canada had 14 blocks to China's six and scored nine points on serve to China's eight.

"It's surreal. I can't believe it," Canada outside hitter Andrea Mitrovic told volleyballworld.com. "Our team was fighting all the way through like coming down, [Monday] we lost a five-setter, but today we knew how to come back and fight as a team. I think that our serving and passing were a key to this victory."

Insurmountable lead

Trailing 2-1 in sets, China led 5-2 early in the fourth, increased the margin to six at 10-4 on an ace against Bujan and made it 16-7 before Canada called a timeout.

"We're going to do simple things well. We're not going to change our game plan," Winzer told her players. "We need to get back to it."

Canada reeled off four straight points before a Mitrovic kill attempt went long to give China an insurmountable six-point lead as they posted a 25-15 victory.

Canada took two of the first three sets 25-22, 21-25, 25-17.

The annual international men's and women's competition featuring the world's top 16 teams in each gender was cancelled in 2020 because of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The Canadian men's and women's squads will each play a 15-match preliminary round until June 23.

The top four countries advance to the semifinals and finals.

Canada's men, ranked No. 10 in the world, are 2-1 in Rimini and have qualified for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics starting July 23. They battle Iran on Wednesday.

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