LONG BEACH, Calif. -- With an Olympic berth on the line, Canada opened the men's NORCECA volleyball qualifying tournament Monday with a convincing 25-21, 25-13, 25 -15 win over the Dominican Republic.
Coach Glenn Hoag said the Canadian team performed well, although Gord Perrin from Creston, B.C., hurt his back and his status for the next few games is uncertain.
"I thought the guys played a good match," Hoag said after the win. "The Dominican Republic is a weaker team and usually it's difficult to keep your focus."
The NORCECA region covers North America, Central America and the Caribbean, with Cuba and the United States the teams to beat if Canada wants to qualify for the London Games.
"We started slowly but we picked up our pace and set up our block defence and it looked good," said Hoag. "We need to work on our serving a little and our setter-hitter relationship, but that's mainly due to spacial orientation in this big, big gym."
Saskatoon's Gavin Schmitt scored 12 points for Canada against the 46th-ranked Dominicans.
Canada, ranked 18th in the world, plays No. 17 Puerto Rico on Tuesday.
"They're a much better team obviously, more experienced and play a much faster game," Hoag added. "(But) I'm pretty confident. We beat them last summer twice."
The tournament runs through Saturday.
Dan Lewis said the Canadian team knows it has reached a level where it can compete with some of the best.
A Canadian men's team hasn't played at the Olympics since the 1992 Games in Barcelona.
"Today we looked a little but nervous at the start. Everybody knows which matches are the big matches," said Lewis. "The team over the last two years has really come together under Glenn's leadership.
"Our level is there and it's really the last mental part, where you've got to put it together at the right time."
To do that, he says they have to make the stress work for them rather than against them, and not focus on the result they're trying to achieve.
"If you're worrying about the result you're not focusing on the play and if you don't focus on the play, you're going to lose."
He says he knows what he has to deal with stress and make it work for him.
"You've got to accept it and just know it's there and you've got to funnel it to your intensity and in your favour. If we can do that as a group, we're going to win this tournament."
Canada's women's team failed to qualify for the Olympics at a tournament last week.