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China sweeps error-prone Canadians to stay unbeaten in women’s Volleyball Nations League

The second leg of women’s Volleyball Nations League started much like the first for Canada, with a loss, only this time it was swept.

First-place China improved its record to 5-0 with a 25-14, 25-18, 29-27 triumph on Tuesday in Hong Kong.

While the 2-3 Canadians prevailed on the attack (41-39) they were outblocked, lost the battle of aces (5-2) and racked up 28 errors to just 13 for China.

Eighth-place Canada returns to action on Thursday versus No. 11 Bulgaria (1-3).

“China is a formidable opponent. In the first two sets, we struggled with first contact and struggled from the baseline,” Canada head coach Shannon Winzer told Volleyball Canada. “In the third, we started hitting our serves and stayed in system more. As a result we were able to go point for point with one of the strongest teams in this competition.”

“It’ll be important for us to learn from this game how we responded as a team and individually when things got away from us, but not dwell on this loss.”

Among the positives for the Canadians on Tuesday, besides their improvement in each set, was the return of top offensive threat from last season, Kiera Van Ryk.

The 24-year-old native of New Westminster, B.C, missed the first leg for personal reasons in Antalya, Turkey, where her teammates went 2-2 and posted an upset five-set victory over reigning world champions Serbia in their last match.

Van Ryk was eighth overall in offence last season in VNL and the top server with 20 aces.

Outside hitter Alexa Gray, who took charge of Canada’s offence during Van Ryk’s absence, led the team with 13 points versus China despite spending a portion of a poor first set on the bench. Hilary Howe added 12 points while Van Ryk shook off some early rust to reach double digits with 10.

Li Yingying topped China and led all scorers with 14 points, followed by Yuan Xinyue and Wang Yuanyuan with nine each.

China ended a wild third and final set with its fifth ace of the match.

The Canadians had jumped out to a 5-2 lead, only to watch their opponent draw even when Van Ryk’s serve met the net to make it 10-10.

Neither side led by more than two points the rest of the way while Canada had an opportunity to put away China. After an ace by setter Brie King made it 23-21, Canada went up 24-22 but the Chinese fought back and tied it when a Van Ryk kill attempt went long.

The Canadians had eight days off between matches and it showed in the first set when they fell behind 17-7, prompting head coach Shannon Winzer to signal for a timeout.

“We’ve got to rise to the challenge,” she told her players. “We’ve got to find a little fire.”

Howe came out of the timeout and spiked the ball for a point but Canada had only a 28 per cent success rate on the attack at that time, compared to China at 47 per cent.

While the Canadians played better for the balance of the set, outscored 8-6, they couldn’t close the gap.

In the second set, Canada stayed close early on and went on a 5-2 run to pull even on a Gray kill. But China took over and never looked back, building leads of 18-14 and 22-16.

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