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Canada’s net presence key to 4th straight win at women’s volleyball worlds

Canada carried the momentum from a thrilling five-set comeback victory over Germany to post its fourth consecutive victory at the FIVB women’s volleyball world championship on Tuesday.

Led by outside hitters Alexa Gray and Kiera Van Ryk, the Canadians defeated Thailand 25-19, 25-21, 23-25, 25-22 in the opening match of Phase 2 in Łódź, Poland.

“I thought we did a great job of executing the game plan,” Canada head coach Shannon Winzer told Volleyball Canada. “We were fairly consistent throughout the match.

“In the third set when we were behind, we were trying to do too much, but we came back to the fourth set like we approached the first two — let’s keep calm, get the good reads, let’s get good moves and control what we can, which works for us.”

Gray and Van Ryk scored 25 and 24 points, respectively, and fittingly put the finishing touches on the victory. Van Ryk of Surrey, B.C., scored a point off a block to snap a 22-22 tie in the fourth set while Calgary’s Gray ended a long rally with a kill down the middle before her teammate’s spike sealed the win.

“I’m happy my teammates had my back and kept pushing me,” Gray said. “It’s going to be a hard week for us.”

Ranked 15th in the world, Canada had never reached the second phase of worlds, but is guaranteed another three matches, starting Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. ET versus No. 7 Turkey, which swept Germany on Tuesday.

The Canadians experienced a slow start at the 24-team tournament with losses to Serbia and United States but reeled off victories against Kazakhstan, Bulgarian and Germany before Tuesday to finish third in Pool C with a 3-2 record and qualify seventh in its eight-team group for Phase 2.

The top four teams from each pool advance to the quarter-finals.

On Tuesday, the teams were nearly even on attack points (65-63 Canada) and scoring via adversary errors (16-15 Canada) but the Canadians dominated at the net, outblocking Thailand 13-5.

Trailing 8-5 in the final set, Canada drew even at 10-10 on consecutive blocks by Vicky Savard and Brie King, who put her team ahead 12-11 with her second block point of the match.

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