Sapporo, Japan, October 3, 2018 – Brianna Beamish, Alexa Gray and Emily Maglio were the top scorers for Canada as they edged Cuba in a battle of two winless teams on the fourth day of action in the FIVB World Championship at Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center on Wednesday. Canada won 3-1 (16-25, 25-13, 25-18, 25-20) in the first match at Sapporo to go beyond three sets.
It was Canada’s first win over Cuba in a World Championship match and their first at any world-level tournament.
Beamish scored 16 points, Gray 15 and Magio 14. Beamish had four aces, while Maglio scored four blocking points. Cuba were led by captain Diaris Perez and Laura Suarez with 12 points each. Suarez scored four block points.
Canada had impressed in a losing battle against China on Tuesday but the first set against Cuba was a disaster. Big-hitting Kiera Van Ryk was blocked by Diaris Perez on the first point and Cuba didn’t fall behind in the whole set. Three straight service errors didn’t help Canada and Jessica Aguilera added two good spikes and a block on Van Ryk, who was substituted later in the set. Ivy Vila helped stretch Cuba’s lead to 10 points at 20-10 with a couple of good hits but towards the end, Canada suddenly found some quality in their play. Successive kills from Kyla Richey and blocks by Richey and Maglio brought the score to 21-16 but that was as close as Canada could get. Two more errors helped seal their fate.
The situations were reversed in the second set with Cuba committing a number of errors. Perez was guilty of poor serves and reception errors and the only bright spot for the Cubans was the classy spiking of 17-year-old Ailama Cese. Canada were 16-8 ahead at the second technical timeout after a horrendous setting error by Cuba and they took the set when Kitania Medina planted a shot into the net.
Unfortunately for the Cubans, the pattern didn’t change much during the third set. Errors allowed Canada to move ahead from 3-3 to 10-5, when Cise netted a serve. After that, it was all uphill for Cuba, who struggled to find any cohesion in their play. Canada stretched their lead to eight points at the second TTO after successive receiving errors allowed them easy winners and Perez added another for good measure to make it 19-11. Not that the Canadians were that much better, but they were more in control than the Cubans. Van Ryk brought up setpoint with a slick crosscourt shot and a shot down the middle by Maglio gave Canada the lead.
The fourth set was more of a contest. Both sides started to defend much better and the result was in the balance until late in the set. After Canada edged ahead 8-5 at the first TTO, Cuba pushed back to within a point at 9-8. At 10-8, Perez committed two reception howlers and Van Ryk followed up with a rocket to put Canada five points up. Cuba fought back again. Gretell Moreno, Cuba’s setter, delivered a bullet shot to make it 14-11 and Cese finished off a long rally to pull Cuba within two points. It was a one-point game at 16-15 before Canada pulled away again, and a tipover by Brianna Beamish made is 19-15. Cuba coach Tomas Fernandez brought on his second setter, veteran Egli Sabin, to play alongside his other setter, Moreno. Both spike with venom and Sabin scored four quick attacking points to make it 20-19. But it wasn’t enough. Alexa Gray scored twice with big hits to bring matchpoint and Maglio’s final service dribbled off the net before dropping vertically to give Canada their first win.