“We don’t back down against these guys.”
Those words were head coach Shannon Winzer’s attempt to keep her Canadian women’s volleyball players motivated during a timeout late in a challenging first set on Monday against the top-ranked United States.
They responded by putting forth a strong effort in the 81-minute game but couldn’t upend the reigning Olympic champions, who prevailed 25-19, 26-24, 25-15 at the FIVB world championship in Arnhem, Netherlands.
The 2014 world champion Americans improved to 2-0 and sit atop Pool C while Canada is fifth (0-2). Kazakhstan is also 0-2 and plays Canada on Thursday in Poland (CBCSports.ca, CBC Gem, 7 a.m. ET).
Kiera Van Ryk of Surrey, B.C., had a team-leading 15 points for Canada, which delivered a much stronger effort than Sunday’s tournament-opening, straight-sets loss to defending world champions Serbia.
Outside hitters Alexa Gray and Emily Maglio added nine and seven points, respectively.
WATCH | Full match coverage: Canada vs United States:
The Americans, led by Alexandra Frantti’s 15 points on 14 kills and one block, amassed 43 on the attack and held the edge in blocks (8-3) and serves (7-2) while collecting 18 points on Canada errors.
They led by as much as six points early in the third set, but Canada fought back to get to within a point, only to surrender 12 of the final 14 points at the GelreDome.
Service reception struggles
“We’ve been pushing so hard in training leading up to the world championship and we know every team will come here and do their best,” Frantti said. “We’re just going to keep fighting hard and I’m really proud of our team today.”
Canada struggled with service reception early in the final set and trailed 3-0 and 8-4 before a service error by American setter Jordyn Poulter cut the U.S. lead to 11-6. The Canadians then went on a 5-1 run to close to within 12-11.
In the opening set, Canada trailed 12-9 but went on a 5-2 run to draw even, highlighted by a Brie King block.
The U.S. began to pull away at 19-15 on a hit by middle-blocker Chiaka Ogbogu, the best spiker in the Turkish league this season who dominated the middle on Monday with six kills and four blocks.
Annie Drews then scored off a block to make it a five-point game ahead of a Poulter ace, with captain Kelsey Robinson scoring the final two points of the set.
When Canada trailed 4-3 in the second set, Gray had just a single point on the day after leading the team with 14 against Serbia. But the Calgarian stepped up and scored the next three points by the Canadians, highlighted by a hard right hit at Drews.
However, Van Ryk extended the U.S. lead to 9-6 when she took too much off a shot, prompting Winzer to signal for a timeout.
WATCH | Van Ryk, Gray key to Canada’s success:
Canada played better coming out of the break and cut the American led to 13-12 on a Van Ryk hit to the corner for her ninth point of the contest.
3 straight service errors
The teams exchanged points until the Canadians drew the equalizer on a long and wide shot from Drews. On the ensuing serve, Howe collected a point off the block to put Canada ahead 18-17.
The Canadians had a chance to build a lead but three consecutive service errors by Van Ryk, Howe and Caroline Livingston allowed the U.S. to tie the set 22-22.
Aces by Drews and Sarah Wilhite paved the way for a U.S. victory.
“They [Canada] pushed us at the end of the set but we were ready to battle for each point and went for it,” Frantti said.
In other matches Monday:
- Germany topped Kazakhstan 25-15, 25-18, 25-21
- Serbia needed all five sets to defeat Bulgaria 25-21, 22-25, 25-27, 25-21, 15-9
The 19th edition of the tournament features 24 countries from five continental confederations.
It is the first edition to be co-hosted by two countries, with matches also scheduled to take place in the Dutch cities of Rotterdam and Apeldoorn, and the Polish cities of Gdańsk, Łódź and Gliwice.
The teams are divided into four pools of six teams each for the preliminary stage. The top four teams in each pool advance to the second stage, where they are divided again into two groups.
The 16 remaining teams will play four matches against opponents they didn’t face during the preliminary stage, with the top four squads from both groups moving to the quarter-finals on Oct. 11. The two-day semifinals begin Oct. 12, with the medal matches Oct. 15 in Apeldoorn.