Canada's Paul Duerden celebrates
November 17, 2006, Sendai, Japan — Canada beat Kazakhstan 25-21, 26-24, 25-21 in a hard-fought Pool D opener in Sendai on Friday.
The Canadians were pushed all the way by the Kazakhs and the three-
set sweep belied a match that was extremely close.
In a turbo-charged opening exchange, 12th-ranked Canada edged ahead 8-4 before the first TTO behind an excellent defense that frustrated the Kazakhstan attack.
The Canadians, making their eighth tournament appearance, surged further ahead to 13-7, with Michael Munday buzzing around the court salvaging seemingly lost causes and Steve Brinkman varying his serves well.
Kazakhstan, making only their second tournament appearance, soon found their rhythm, though, and reduced the deficit so the second TTO was reached with the Canadians leading 16-12.
The blues of Kazakhstan briefly rallied and drew level at 17-all with a swirling serve from Marat Imangaliyev, and for all Canada’s efforts, they weren’t going to be allowed to run away with the first set.
A surge of spikes from both teams brought the scores to 23-20, before
Brinkman’s huge spike took Canada to the brink of winning the opening set.
Imangaliyev saved one set point with a pinpoint angled spike but Pascal
Cardinal stepped up with an easy winner into open court to clinch the first set 25-21 to the North Americans.
The second set turned into a battle of the No. 15s as Canada’s Frederic
Winters’s spikes — and one service ace — brought the points for the Canucks, while Kazakhstan’s 210-cm Svyatoslav Miklashevich started to use his imposing height to good effect with some shuddering spikes of his own.
The score never veered from a point ahead for either team and the second TTO arrived with the Canadians ahead 16-15. Canada preserved their lead but then Miklashevich showcased the delicate side to his game with a brilliant dink over the Canada defense to level the scores at 21-21.
But seconds later the giant Kazakh fluffed a serve to give Canada set point at 24-23. That was saved, but Imangaliyev amazingly served into the net again to give Canada their second chance at clinching the second set.
They took it this time with a towering block from Paul Duerden and Canada
went 2-0 up.
Kazakhstan were nowhere near down and out, though. They surged to a 15-7 lead in the third set, courtesy of some rugged defensive play and the powerful spikes of Miklashevich.
The Canadians were stung into action and won the next seven points, with No. 2 Christian Bernier blocking brilliantly on three occasions, but the Kazakh’s won the next point to go into the second TTO 16-14 ahead.
The TTO proved to be to Canada’s advantage. They moved ahead and found some daylight at 23-21. A brilliant block from Brinkman gave Canada match point and then Duerden ended a nervy rally by spiking into space to give Canada the victory.