Maar leads Canada to a tiebreak win over Belgium


Stephen Timothy Maar scored 24 points for Canada

Antwerp, Belgium, 16 Jun, 2017 - Canada boosted their hopes of qualifying for the 2017 World League Final Six after withstanding a brilliant Belgian fightback to win a five-set thriller (25-23, 25-13, 24-26, 22-25, 15-10) in Friday’s late group one game in Antwerp.

Stephen Timothy Maar was in electric form for the Pan-American Games bronze medallists, he poured in with 24 points and 19 spikes to lead the Canadian attack, while Graham Vigrass and Daniel Vandoorn weighed in with 16 points apiece. Vital Heynen’s hosts, who were on the backfoot for much of the contest, were led by Gert van Walle who chipped in with 20 points

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Both sides came into the game neck-and-neck in the standings with 3 & 3 records, with both also having lost their last encounters (Serbia 3-0 Belgium; Poland 3-1 Canada), although the Belgians were ahead of their opponents after having a better win-loss set ratio.

The first set was a cagey affair with the scores level at 5-5, but Canada soon took the initiative as they charged into a 12-9 lead. The Belgians, despite hauling themselves back level at 17-17, were never in front. The Canadians, marshalled by the impressive Stephen Timothy Maar who scored 7 points in the opening set alone, came through 25-23 to move in front.

Canada, who had scored more points (585) yet conceded more (603) than any other team in the competition prior to this round of fixtures, continued to look red hot in attack with John Gordon Perrin assisting Maar and Daniel Vandoorn in establishing an 8-4 advantage. Stephane Antiga’s side, who were appearing in their sixth-straight World League event, continued to blossom and powered clear of their shell-shocked opponents in the second to win it 25-13 to move to the brink of victory. The only consolation for the Belgians – Bram Van Den Dries gathered the two points he needed to reach a century in the players’ points standings.

The hosts have never been beyond the group stage at the World League, and they fought superbly against a Canadian side that threatened to blow them away. Perrin and Maar’s spikes had the visitors on the brink of victory at 23-21 in the third, but the Belgians showed tremendous courage to battle back and take the set 26-24.

Belgium, who lost to Canada earlier in the competition, battled back from yet another deficit in the fourth. With Canada 16-12 in front, the hosts fought their way back into the set and two pinpoint serves from Simon Van der Voorde wrapped up the set 25-22 to send the contest to a fifth.

Portugal also started the following set well, with Egypt trying to catch up. Portugal maintained their few-point advantage to take the set 25-21 and force a tiebreak.

But Belgium’s hopes of a comeback victory were ended as Canada regained their composure in the decider. Vandoorn, who blocked five efforts throughout, was at the heart of the defensive effort. A controversial decision, which saw Belgian coach Heynen yellow-carded after remonstrating with the referee, appeared to knock the stuffing out of the hosts as Canada served out the set superbly to take it 15-10.

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