Antwerp, Belgium, June 18, 2017 – 19 points by Stephen Timothy Maar lifted Canada above Italy for a 3-1 victory (20-25, 25-22, 25-14, 25-22) to remain in the race for the Final Six in Sunday's action at the 2017 FIVB World League.
The 22-year old outside hitter, helped by high-flying Sharone Vernon-Evans (12 points), led the way for the Stephane Antiga's men, who scored an important come-from-behind win thanks a solid performance from the wall (10 blocks). Italy may have dominated the service, but the Europeans made too many mistakes (31) to have any hopes of winning their third match of the tournament.
Iacopo Botto and Giulio Sabbi scored 20 points combined, but it wasn't enough to overcome a solid Canadian team, who will have to wait for the results of the final matches of the weekend to know if they are qualified for the Brazil round.
The Italians headed into their final match of the weekend hoping to rekindle the spirit that helped them dominate France 3-1. With nothing else in the pipes, with a 2-6 record, Coach Gianlorenzo Blengini opted for his usual starting six, built around Luca Vettori, who was the most prolific scorer against Belgium (1-3) with 22 points.
For the fifth World League encounter with Italy, the first since the North Americans beat the eventual silver medalists in pool play at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Canada (4-4) needed a win to remain in the race for the Final Six in Curitiba.
And it was Stephane Antiga's men who started the first set at full throttle, racing to a 3-0 lead. But Italy is a formidable opponent and they hit back superbly as they moved into a 10-9 lead. The Europeans consistently spiked, leaving little room for Canada to answer back and slowly increased their advantage (19-16). As the Italian moved into action, led by Matteo Piano (2 blocks), the Canadians collapsed (25-20).
A solid performance in defense, helped by a smart play by Stephen Timothy Maar, saw Canada get their nose in front (10-9) from the onset. Both teams were neck and neck, but Canada headed into the business end of the second set with a slight advantage (20-18). Youngster Sharone Vernon-Evans was on target as Italy struggled and Maar aced (25-22).
With the wind in their sails, Canada raced to the top with four straight blocks to overcome Italy (8-5). With Iacopo Botto, Italy's top scorer, wrapped around its finger, Canada controlled the pace of the game and increased its lead and even Oleg Antonov's entrance couldn't change that (19-13). As a matter of fact, the North Americans were ruthless as Maar smashed spike after spike and Canada strolled to an easy 2-1 lead (25-14).
The fourth set got off to a lively start but neither team would let the other get away (8-8). Canada and Italy exchanged blows as Giulio Sabbi spiked and Maar piped to level in a tightly contest set (15-15). Two blocks in a row gave Canada a slight advantage, enhanced by a Graham Vigrass spike (18-15). A last-minute rally for Italy saw the Europeans close the gap at 22-21 after a technical time out but a powerful spike by Vernon and a deft attack by Perrin offered the game to Canada (25-22).