Poland fended off the tough challenge from a gritty Canadian side in a tight three-setter with scores of 25-21, 25-23, and 27-25 at the 2023 FIVB Volleyball Men’s Nations League preliminary round on Saturday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The win saw the world No. 1 side move to second place with a 9-2 win-loss record, just behind Japan, who are at 10-0.
Opposite hitter Lukasz Kaczmarek took over the crucial points for the Red and White in this match, starting again this time in place of the previous match’s best player, Wilfredo Leon.
“At the start, it was really difficult and tight. Every game, we choose to play with different sets of starters. For us, it’s also something new. It was a tough game, but the important thing was that we got the win and the three points,” said the wing spiker, who contributed with nine attack points and a block.
Canada came out of the gates, converting its defensive energy into three-point margins multiple times in the opening set. The Europeans, however, got some reprieve when Wilfredo Leon contributed from the bench to help his squad win the first set at 25-21.
The second set was another tight battle before Canada took a 21-19 lead, fueled by the cheers from the crowd in attendance.
Poland, though, tightened its defense and eventually clinched the second set and a 2-0 advantage thanks to a huge block from Karol Kłos.
The 2018 World champions then needed a finishing kick to deny Canada a set, securing their third match point with yet another block from Kamil Semeniuk.
Semeniuk and Norbert Hubert were instrumental in the endgame, with both finishing with 11 markers. Semeniuk contributed with nine attacks and added two blocks, including the clincher, while Huber was a force in the middle with six spikes and four blocks.
The Final Round host will take on Japan to end its preliminary round on Sunday at 7 p.m.
Samuel Cooper showed up for the Canadians with 15 spikes, three service aces, and a block. Arthur Szwarc once again finished in double digits with 16 markers.
Canada, which stands at 2-9, will face China in a crucial battle for their hopes of maintaining their VNL spot. The match is scheduled earlier in the day at 11 a.m.