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Canada beats Dominican Republic 3-1 and advances to semifinal

GATINEAU, Canada, July 28, 2017 - Canada advanced to the 12th Men’s Pan American Cup semifinal after they defeated the Dominican Republic 3-1 (25-20, 16-25, 25-21 and 25-23) in almost two hours at Gatineau’s Robert Guertin Arena.

In front of their home crowd, Canada started out well and built a narrow lead over their Caribbean rivals 16-14. Dominican Republic managed to tie at 18, but Brandon Koppers and captain Max Burt were two towers blocking their rivals. Setter Byron Keturakis made a difference from the service line as Canada took the opening set 25-20.

The Caribbean squad bounced back early in the second period, taking advantage of their rivals’ hitting and serving errors, to move 8-4 in front. The Dominicans kept the pressure and Elvis Contreras produced two solid spikes to increase the lead 16-7. Canada had some good moments but could not stop their rivals who equalled the match with a 25-16.

The host team regrouped and showed a more aggressive and efficient play to lead 8-4 at the first technical timeout in the third set. Casey Schouten led the Canucks with a strong hitting and serve. The Dominican Republic reacted and Elvis Contrera continued to find room in the Canadian defense to close the gap to 14-16.

With solid block by Schouten, Demyanenko and Max Burt, combined with a hard serve by setter Byron Keturakis, Canada regained momentum and finished the set 25-21 thanks to Danny Demyanenko’s attack from the middle.

The fourth set started more erratic with each team making three mistakes from the service line. Jose Caceres, standing 2.10m tall, kept the pressure from the Dominicans with strong spikes, but setter Keturakis found spaces in their opponents’ defense to lead 8-7.  Their block performed and Ryan Sclater hit hard from the left angle to put the country of the Maple Leaf 16-12 in front. The Caribbean side never gave up and moved within one point (23-24), but Ryan Sclater sealed the victory with another lethal spike from the left angle.

Casey Schouten led the Canadian production with 16 points, one more than Ryan Sclater. Brandon Koppers also contributed with 11. Elvis Contreras and Jose Caceres each scored 15 for the Caribbean squad.

Canada, the bronze medallist at last’s year edition, will play defending champions Cuba on Saturday. The Dominican Republic will play against the loser of the Puerto Rico-United States match for a place between fifth and eighth.

Max Burt, captain of Canada: “We came out really good in the first set, we put a lot of service pressure on them, but we let them back in the second and they get a lot of confidence when you start giving them free points like that – they’re scrappy and they have got a lot of physicality. But we were able to settle it down in the third set and take control of the match again, which is really nice.”

Larry McKay, coach of Canada: “It’s a developmental team, and what happened in the second set is part of these young guys trying to be international players and fortunately they found their good game again and I’m pleased for them.  The Dominican team has one of the best coaches in the world, and today they just weren’t as good. And our guys had three good sets.  We’ve played all our guys through this tournament because I want to showcase everybody; and in this match I tried to stay with one group and not make too many switches for consistency.  We haven’t played a lot as a team, so that’s why this tournament is important.”

Orlando Samuel, head coach of Dominican Republic: “Our men have played a good tournament. We have lost two games, but they have been close. We had ups and downs. We have been training for two months and did not play any tune-up match. We have had to make some changes. Our men fight until the end, but we have our limitations. Despite our limited resources, our men have shown a lot of dedication and I am proud of this team.”