Canada joins WOQT in Japan as second best team from NORCECA Olympic Qualification Tournament played in Edmonton, Canada back in January. After USA qualified for the Olympics by winning 2015 World Cup, Canada had its biggest rival in NORCECA zone out of the way. And yet, the team couldn’t claim the Olympic berth while hosting continental OQT, losing to Cuba in the final. Will they be able to claim the Olympic berth in Japan?
Canucks defeated Mexico and Puerto Rico without losing a single set in Edmonton, but the final looked exactly the opposite when Canucks faced young Cuban team. Coach Glenn Hoag recalls the issues his team had to deal with at the time.
Luckily Canada didn’t lose its chance for Rio entirely, securing spot at the WOQT in Japan. The ‘prize’ is one of the tricky things about the qualification system in this cycle. Second placed teams of continental OQTs from NORCECA and South America are set up to compete in the WOQT that doubles with Asian OQT, while the third ranked teams will play the ‘small’ WOQT in Mexico City against two African teams. Hoag admits that he struggled to find the logic behind this system.
In Japan there will be not one big opponent in Hoag’s opinion. Canada will have to face all seven participants as competition is played in round robin system. “Poland, Japan, Iran, Australia, France are all good teams. It will be a very difficult competition”, Hoag lists strongest teams. His team needs to finish fourth, as long as one of the Asian teams will be among the top three. One Olympic berth is secured for the best ranked Asian team. If that means best three, the next Olympic berth goes to the next best team in the competition. Will Canada join USA and Cuba as NORCECA representatives in Rio 2016? Good news for the team is that Gavin Schmitt is back in the game after pausing for almost entire club season due to an injury. Canada is missing Fred Winters and Dustin Schneider on its roster, while Schmitt is the only official opposite included in the squad. It is a risky business if you ask me, but Hoag surely has some ace up his sleeve. Wing spiker Steve Marshall played episode as an opposite for team Canada during 2015 World League and the NORCECA OQT.
After WOQT Canada will head right to the World League, looking up to compete – and probably win – Group 2. If they miss the Olympic berth, World League will be all they have this summer. But if qualified, approach to play World League might be different, considering short time between competition finals and start of the Olympic Games.
And if qualified, who will be their biggest opponent at Rio 2016?