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Tiebreaker Times

2024 VNL Season

Xander Ketrzynski’s heroics propel Canada to VNL Final Round

Xander Ketrzynski proved to be the difference as Canada secured its first-ever appearance in the FIVB Men’s Volleyball Nations League Final Round with a dramatic 21-25, 25-22, 28-26, 14-25, 15-9 victory over the Netherlands on Saturday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.

The win saw the North Americans finish the preliminary phase with an impressive 8-2 win-loss record on a four-match winning streak – a significant improvement from the 3-9 slate of the previous season when they needed to win the last match against China to escape relegation.

Ketrzynski, a 24-year-old opposite spiker from Toronto, substituted for stalwart Arthur Szwarc in the third set. And that move paid dividends for head coach Tuomas Sammelvuo.

Ketrzynski scored the last two points of the crucial third set with a through-the-block kill and a no-touch ace.

“I think it’s the mentality of the group. I wasn’t around last year, so I can only speak about what is currently going on, but I feel that this year we see ourselves differently. We have a bit more confidence. So, I guess this trust in ourselves helped us execute in the tough moments,” said the winger who plays for SVG Lüneburg in the German Volleyball Bundesliga.

With just a two-point advantage in the fifth and final set at 10-8, Canada carved out a 5-1 closing run to complete the sweep of the Manila leg just three minutes shy of a two-hour contest.

The run started with another Ketrzynski kill and ended with a Szwarc block on Maarten van Garderen.

Ketrzynski produced nine points in total, scoring seven of those in the pivotal third set to restore the black-shirts’ set advantage at 2-1.

#ReadMore  PVL: Chery Tiggo makes quick work of Cignal in Velez's return

VNL2024-Eric-Loeppky-8045 Xander Ketrzynski's heroics propel Canada to VNL Final Round 2024 VNL Season News Volleyball  - philippine sports news

Stephen Marr scattered 18 markers in the five sets played, eight of which came in that second-set turnaround.

Fellow outside hitter Eric Loeppky exploded for the Canadians with three consecutive back-row kills in the third-set thriller to support Ketrzynski, eventually ending with 14 points on 12 kills, one block, and one service ace.

Canada will head to Łódź, Poland for the Final Round of the tournament, awaiting its next opponent.

VNL2024-Nimir-Abdel-Aziz-7931 Xander Ketrzynski's heroics propel Canada to VNL Final Round 2024 VNL Season News Volleyball  - philippine sports news

Nimir Abdel-Aziz, captain of the Orange Tulips, predictably paced the squad with a whopping 37 points on 30 kills, one block, and six huge service aces — four coming from that dominant fourth set.

Van Garderen produced his best performance of the week with 17 markers on 14 spikes and three blocks.

The Dutchmen ended this year’s VNL with a 3-9 win-loss record.

Grew to appreciate various sports from tennis to judo. True-maroon kiddo since the new millennium. Fanboy. Singer. Occasional sports writer.

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