Canadians Pull Off Great Escape while Cuba Ease Out of Pool

A huge roller-coaster victory for Canada and a lackadaisical win for Cuba mean the teams we are following at the World Championships in Rome made it out of their pools. Both teams finished third in their groups and continue the tournament in the Lucky Losers round tomorrow.

Canada not only needed a win today, they needed to beat the Dutch by a large enough margin to overcome their rally points deficit against either Italy or Poland. Luckily for the Canadians the first tie breaker is total rally points in the group, not head to head results, or their tournament would have been over no matter what.

Leila Martinez & Lidianny Echeverria were also 0-2, but their outlook was much brighter as they were facing another 0-2 team from Egypt. A win of any kind for Cuba would secure third place for them.

The Beach Volley Blog has been following Canadians Sam Schachter & Dan Dearing and Cubans Leila Martinez & Lidianny Echeverria on their World Championship journey. Here are the links to the earlier posts if you want to catch up on anything you missed.

Canada gets it done when it matters

Sam Schachter and Dan Dearing’s prospects for advancing didn’t look great as they entered their final pool play match on Monday morning. The Canadians had shown flashes of brilliance against Italy’s Daniele Lupo & Alex Ranghieri and Poland’s Michael Bryl and Bartosz Losiak, but came up just short in their first two matches. Their final match was against Christiaan Varenhorst & Steven van de Velde, who were already 2-0 in Rome.

Great start sends strong message

An ace and an early hitting error by the Dutch gave Canada an immediate 3-0 lead to start the first set. Schachter and Dearing were siding out well, but frequent serving errors by the Dutch made their job even easier. Still, Varenhorst and van de Velde battled back to close the gap to 8-7. Dearing picked up a block to build the lead to 3 points again. Their side out game was firing, too, as Sam’s setting was on point and Dearing followed his vocal partners calls to tool the giant blocker or hit right past him. Late in the first set, Canada only needed to continue siding out to win the set, but padded their account by coming up with a couple more points late, including an awkward reverse pokey by Dearing after a long rally. Canada ran away with a 21-16 first set win.

Sam Schachter battles Christiaan Varenhorst in Pool B action. Photo by Volleyball World.

A set to forget

The second set was a different story. Varenhorst owned the net, blocking six times and using his length to beat Dearing on every 50/50 ball that hung over the net. I don’t know if they were thinking about it, but the match point ratio for the tie breaker they needed was getting destroyed as Canada fell behind 13-4. They managed to prevent the deficit from getting much worse and finished out the painful set 21-11 losers.

Moving on

In the opening match against Italy, Canada dropped two straight sets after winning the opener. Based on the momentum built by the Netherlands in the second set, it seemed like Schachter and Dearing faced the same fate today. Instead the Canadians came out strong and Steven van de Velde had a disastrous third set. (I’m not saying match fix kind of bad, but INTERPOL may decide to look into any unusual betting activity around pool B.) In all fairness to the fair skinned Dutch duo, it was very hot in Rome today and that is the more likely explanation for Steven’s melting down the stretch. That and the fact that Dan Dearing turned into an absolute beast at the net with three blocks.

A key point in the decisive set came with the Dutchies leading 6-5 and ready to take control. Varenhorst seemed to get his second stuff block in a row on Dearing, but Dan somehow acrobatically covered his own block and managed to convert the side out. That point made it 6-6 instead of 5-7. Sam got an ace, Dearing got his blocks and van de Velde made several hitting errors from that point on and Canada closed it out 15-9.

Italy delivers the needed result

The rally points ratio was much more likely to fall in Schachter and Dearing’s favor if Italy won, than if the match went to Poland. The matches were happening simultaneously, and Poland and Italy were in a battle. The first set went into extra points and both teams had a handful of set point opportunities. In the end the heat caught up with the usually unstoppable Barosz Losiak as his serves and two of his usually precise deep attacks sailed long giving Italy a 28-26 win in the opener. The second set went Italy’s way 21-18 and when the points were all totaled, Poland was out and Canada was in. Our heroes had survived the group of death and live to see another day in Rome

Mexico awaits

The Lucky Losers round sees Canada face Mexico’s Miguel Sarabia & Juan Virgen. Schachter and Virgen have met on ten occasions that I have found, always with different partners, and have an equal 5-5 record. The experienced Mexican had most of his success against Sam many years ago, but needless to say, these two know each other well.

Mexico finished third in Pool C. They lost a three setter to Estonia’s Kusti Nolvak & Mart Tiisaar in the opener and got blasted by Alexander Brouwer & Robert Meeuwsen. They finished up pool play with a win over Moroccans Mohamed Abicha & Soufiane El Gharouti.

The Canadians are the favorites in this match, the first time they’ll have that role at these World Championships, but they will have to keep their guard up against Mexico.

Dan Dearing & Sam Schachter’s World Championship Schedule
Date Stage Opponent Nationality Result
June 10th Pool B Daniele Lupo & Alex Ranghieri Italy Loss (22-20, 18-21, 12-15)
June 11th Pool B Michal Bryl & Bartosz Losiak Poland Loss (23-25, 19-21)
June 13th Pool B Christiaan Varenhorst & Steven van de Velde Netherlands Win (21-16, 11-21, 15-9)
June 14th Lucky Losers Miguel Sarabia & Juan Virgen Mexico

Leila & Lidy take it easy in win

I honestly don’t have much to say about this one. After two matches of explosive beach volleyball that showed how potent the Cuban women could be, today was not their most dynamic outing. Farida El Askalany & Doaa Elghobashy made some good plays and showed a lot of passion, but they were no where near the level of competition Leila and Lidy saw against Terese Cannon & Sarah Sponcil or Mariafe Artacho & Taliqua Clancy in their first two matches.

Instead of honing their powerful jump serves and working on moving the ball around in attack, the Cubans played with very little urgency. In both sets they entered the technical timeout with the score 11-10. Both times they pulled away, but even when they went on runs of points, it wasn’t through the powerful energetic volleyball we’ve seen out of them this week in Rome. The final score was 21-14, 21-16.

Leila knuckles a shot past Farida El Askalany’s block in their final match of pool play. Photo by Volleyball World.

The first consideration for placing third place teams straight into the round of 32 or into the Lucky Losers is set ratio. Martinez and Echeverria were 0-4 entering this match, so avoiding the Lucky Losers round was already out of reach. Maybe they decided to conserve energy on this hot Monday morning to make sure they are ready to go tomorrow. If that was the goal, they definitely succeeded in securing third place without pushing themselves too hard.

Tough draw in lucky losers round

Leila and Lidy were not lucky in their matchup tomorrow as they face Switzerland’s Esmée Böbner & Zoé Vergé-Dépré. This is arguably the toughest team of the seven teams in the round that they could have faced.

The Swiss played in Pool E where they gave two of the best teams in Rome all they could handle. On the opening day they pushed Sophie Bukovec & Brandie Wilkerson hard before falling 22-24, 17-21. The next day they gave Betsi Flint & Kelly Cheng all they could handle, 21-17, 16-21, 12-15. Böbner & Vergé-Dépré finally got their breakthrough against Italian wildcards, Valentina Cali & Margherita Tega , in a nervy encounter that could have seen them eliminated (19-21, 21-16, 15-12). All of the lower ranked Italian teams have proved much strong than expected, so the Swiss’ struggle is definitely not a black mark on their resume.

Leila Martinez & Lidianny Echeverria’s World Championship Schedule
Date Stage Opponent Nationality Result
June 10th Pool H Terese Cannon & Sarah Sponcil USA Loss (16-21, 19-21)
June 12th Pool H Mariafe Artacho & Taliqua Clancy Australia Loss (16-21, 18-21)
June 13th Pool H Farida El Askalany & Doaa Elghobashy Egypt Win (21-14, 21-16)
June 14th Lucky Losers Esmée Böbner & Zoé Vergé-Dépré Switzerland