Curitiba, Brazil, July 9, 2017 – Canada won the bronze medal at the 2017 FIVB Volleyball World League after a 3-1 win over rivals the United States
, but it tasted like gold as the North American team celebrated their first-ever podium appearance in the tournament's history at the Arena da Baixada stadium, in Curitiba.
Coached by former French star Stéphane Antiga, the team competed in the Final Six for only the second time in 2017 following a 5th place in Mar del Plata, Argentina, in 2013.
Middle-blocker Graham Vigrass, who joined the National Team one year before their first-ever World League Finals appearance, was part of the team on both Finals runs. The 28-year-old player, who is a bronze medallist from the 2015 Pan American Games, considers the achievement as the outcome of years of hard work.
"This is huge, it’s our first medal in a major tournament," said Vigrass, who scored 12 points against the Americans. "It really motivates up to keep working and fighting for more podiums. Our programme has progressed a lot over the last few years, especially under former coach, Glenn Hoag. This is the best level I’ve ever seen us play. We need to keep playing tournaments like this to get better and better."
Their historic World League campaign also put a rookie under the spotlights as 18-year-old opposite Sharone Vernon-Evans turned some heads after scoring 53 points in the Finals. The youngster was tasked with the challenging mission of replacing Gavin Schmitt, who retired from the National Team after the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, and made great use of his impressive athleticism, becoming one of the team’s most consistent and important players.
With their first podium appearance in the books, the Canadians want to keep progressing. A world champion coaching Poland in 2014, Antiga knows what the next steps should be.
"When you taste that, you want to repeat it and that’s really our goal," said Antiga. "We need to train the younger guys and have a wider group of players to generate some competition between them. We want to improve our programme and get good results, but we also want to develop players."
Canada's next challenge will be the NORCECA Continental Championship, from September 24 to October 2, in Colorado Springs, USA. The top five teams of the tournament will qualify to the 2018 FIVB World Championship.