TOKYO — Gordon Perrin and Gavin Schmitt teamed-up on offence and topped all scorers with 22 and 18 points respectively as Canada defeated Japan 3-1 on Saturday to keep hope alive for a berth at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The Canadians beat the host nation 23-25, 25-19, 25-21, 25-19 at the men's world Olympic qualification tournament at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.
Justin Duff also helped the Canadian offence with eight attacks and on defence with three of the team's nine total blocks. Japan's Kunihiro Shimizu scored 14 points, while Takashi Dekita, who played well in the middle, scored 12 points.
"This gives us a chance to play for qualification tomorrow," said Canada's head coach Glenn Hoag. "I am very proud of the players, some of the bench players came in — Graham Vigrass and Steve Marshall — and did a great job, and Gavin and Gord stayed very focused."
Japan opened the first set with a 5-3 lead, but Duff levelled the score 7-7. The Japanese, now out of Olympic contention and with nothing to lose, came out swinging to win the first set 25-23. But Perrin and Schmitt were no match for Japan's defence in the second set, bringing the gap to 20-15. Duff sealed the set victory for Canada 25-19.
"I think in the first set, there was a little bit of nerves, playing in front of a big crowd in such a stressful environment was not easy, but we battled hard, found our rhythm and we were resilient," said Canada's captain Rudy Verhoeff. "We knew we needed to stay disciplined and just play our game."
In the third, Canada gained a 20-17 advantage as their block toughened up on the Japanese attackers. Duff provided great hits from the middle that got the team closer to ending the set at 24-21, until Schmitt's spike was blocked out at 25-21. Canada led at the start of the fourth set but Tatsuya Fukuzawa scored two consecutive points to tie the score at six. Canada took the lead back 11-8 with two excellent hits from Graham Vigrass. Shimizu botched a serve to give Canada a 20-16 margin. Eventually, a Vigrass spike delivered the match winner at 25-19.
"Japan fought really hard, as we expected them to do. Now we have to try to recover as fast as possible for the match tomorrow," said Hoag. "China has had a great tournament so far. We studied them and we're ready for them. I think our spirits are high and we will give it our all tomorrow for sure."
The WOQT is a round robin tournament: eight teams are competing in 28 games, with each country playing seven matches in as many days. The top-ranked Asian team and the top three ranked teams, four in total, will qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.