Canada’s men’s volleyball team opened the world championships with a loss to Olympic champion Russia on Monday.
Gavin Schmitt of Saskatoon had 11 points to lead the Canadians in their three-set loss (25-21, 25-19, 25-21) in Pool C at Ergo Arena.
Canada, ranked 15th in the world, struck first and looked solid early on, but couldn’t hold off the world No. 2-ranked Russians.
“Obviously it was a bit of a disappointing start for us for the tournament,” said Canada’s captain Fred Winters of Victoria. “I think everyone on our team would agree that Russia didn’t have its top, top level game, but in order to beat them we have to play great, and we didn’t play great today.”
The last time these teams met was at the 2013 FIVB Volleyball World League when Canada came from behind to beat Russia in five sets.
“Russia is one of the favourites to win the tournament, so it’s obviously difficult to face them first,” said Gord Perrin of Creston, B.C., who contributed nine points. “We did some good things, so if we can keep it going, we can win some games and make it to the next round.”
Canada’s coach Glenn Hoag wanted his team to rebound quickly, saying “For us, now our focus turns to the next match.”
The Canadians face No. 8 Bulgaria on Wednesday, then 17th-ranked Egypt on Friday. They’ll wrap up the preliminary round with games Saturday against Mexico (No. 22) and Sunday versus China (19).
The top four teams in each of the four pools of six advance to the next round.
Russia’s seven-foot-two star Dmitriy Muserskiy led all scoring with 18 points.
“It is obvious that Muserskiy was the star today, but we cannot favour any player,” said Russian coach Andrey Voronkov. “My goal with this team is to win every single match. We have been preparing for a long time for this match, not only physically but psychologically.
“Canada turned out to be a very good team in defence. Our aim was to win in straight sets, as we did today and this was the maximum result we wanted to achieve, but some of the players did not show 100 per cent of their skills and we have to work on it.”