CALGARY - World No. 11-ranked Canada downed Finland in straight sets in its opening FIVB Volleyball World League game Saturday.
Canada capitalized on 28 Finland errors and out-blocked the visitors 9-4, riding a 16-point performance by Saskatoon's Gavin Schmitt to earn the 25-21, 25-19, 25-20 victory in just one hour 18 minutes.
"It was a good way to start World League," said captain Frederic Winters of Victoria. "We did the same thing last year, started really strong in our home matches and then the theme was we didn't do so well the second night. So I think the guys are really aware of that. We'll be really prepared for tomorrow night, I think Finland's capable of playing much better, especially in service."
Canada's head coach Glenn Hoag said there's still plenty of room for improvement for his squad.
"Both teams are working things out, it's obvious," he said. "This is what World League is at the beginning. The game grows better as we go. We have a lot of things to work on.
"Our serving wasn't great. We didn't serve very hard, and that's one part of the game where we need to improve is put hard serves in. Second thing is our small play. We need to polish it. We need to be better at setting high balls by non-setters."
The Canadians jumped out to an 8-3 lead in the first set in front of a hometown crowd of 2,850 at the Stampede Corral. The Finns worked back to just a two-point disadvantage at 18-16, but Schmitt was solid down the stretch as Canada took it 25-21.
Canada took the early lead in the second set but Finland pushed in the middle to come within two points before Canada pulled away late.
The third set featured 11 tie scores between 6-6 and 18-18 as neither team could gain a significant advantage, but a block by Gord Perrin of Creston, B.C., and Justin Duff of Winnipeg broke the tie for good to give Canada a 19-18 lead. A kill and a service ace by Schmitt set up match point, and a Finland serve error gave Canada the win at 25-20.
Schmitt led Canada with 12 kills, with Perrin adding nine. Rudy Verhoeff of Calgary had six kills, a block and an ace for Canada.
Canada and Finland will wrap up the opening leg of their Pool C competition Sunday night.