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Vigrass victorious as Canada ends Italy streak

San Juan, Argentina, June 1, 2018 - Graham Vigrass produced a rock-solid performance as Canada brought Italy’s winning start in the Volleyball Nations League to a crashing halt with a 3-1 victory (22-25, 27-25, 25-23, 25-16) on Friday.

Vigrass led the way with power and precision and racked up 14 attacking points as the Canadians bounced back from losing the opening set to blunt their opponent’s fierce attacking options and clinch their second win of the tournament.

Stephen Maar joined Vigrass and offered a two-way threat, smashing down 11 winners while also chiming in with four crucial blocks. Maar was involved in what ultimately proved to be the turning point of the match, the final rally of the second set, that ended when captain Tyler Sanders tipped the ball downwards for a winner and leveled things at 1-1.

Osmany Juantorena struggled with an elbow injury throughout but fought hard for the Italians, who struggled for the kind of consistency that had seen it defeat Germany, Brazil and Serbia in the opening week of matches. Juantorena collected 14 total points, with Ivan Zaytsev blasting 15 in attack, but it simply wasn’t enough.

While the crowd in San Juan was mainly in attendance to see the host nation Argentina in later action against Iran, it appreciated a tense and entertaining affair that was decided by Canada’s resiliency.

Canada had looked determined from the start despite a 2-15 historical record against Italy and settled quickly in the first set. However, Italy came back into it thanks to Oleg Antonov, who swung things around with a dipping ace and a run of forceful serves. Juantorena secured the set with a block on the final point and Italy looked to be on its way.

Yet it was during the second that Italy began to wobble. Juantorena was visibly nursing his elbow and Zaytsev, who crushed 69 points in the opening three matches, was misfiring too often, both on serve and attack.

Indeed, the entire Italian service game was off kilter, with five straight faults late in the set. Italy kept responding with sideouts before its luck was extinguished as Sanders got the magical touch to take the set by the narrowest of margins.

With the match evenly poised, Canada seemed to want it more and was chasing down everything. Sanders cut his hand sprinting into the boards, necessitating a slight delay while his cut was treated, but it merely served to fire up his team further.

Canada maintained their slight advantage, Juantorena kept things tight with some heavy serving, but the last rally summed up the confusion in the Italian camp. After libero Massimo Colaci came up with a desperate dig from a Jason Derocco spike, no one responded in time and the ball was allowed to drift into the net.

The fourth set was one-way traffic, with Canada jumping out strongly and never looking back. Zaytsev rammed home another handful of winners but by now Italy was going for broke and committing far too many errors.

Canada cruised to the victory that has injected life into their VNL campaign after mixed results in the opening round.

The Italians will try to regroup when they take on Iran during day two of action in San Juan while Canada will take on the hosts Argentina. Canada now has six points from its four matches in the inaugural VNL, with Italy remaining on eight.

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