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Canada upsets Cuba at Olympic men's volleyball qualifier

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The Canadian Press
5/9/2012 11:16:31 PM
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LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Gavin Schmitt of Saskatoon and Fred Winters of Victoria were the offensive stars for Canada on Wednesday in a three-set victory over world No. 5 Cuba at the NORCECA Olympic men's volleyball qualifying tournament.

The Canadians, ranked 18th internationally, finished in first place in Group B with a perfect 3-0 mark after a 25-21, 25-17, 25-21 win over the Cubans. Canada gets a bye to the semifinal on Friday.

Cuba placed second at 2-1 and faces Trinidad and Tobago in a quarter-final match on Thursday.

The tournament winner qualifies for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

"We had a really good beat on Cuba's offensive strategies," said Canadian setter Josh Howatson. "We made very few errors and our passing was especially strong. With every match we've played a harder opponent and we've gotten better too."

Schmitt had 21 points for the Canadians while Winters added 16 and was a perfect 15-for-15 attacking. Toon Van Lankvelt of Rivers, Man., had eight points and led the Canadians with four successful blocks.

"It's a total team victory," said Canadian head coach Glenn Hoag. "We have a system that the players believe in and every one played their role. That was the biggest highlight for me. We've seen this team grow for six years and these are the kind of performances we knew we were capable of."

The Canadians capitalized on six service errors by the Cubans in the first set to grab a 1-0 lead in sets.

A five point run late in the second set that included three offensive errors by the Cubans put the Canadians up for good. Schmitt collected 10 of his 21 points in the third set.

In Wednesday's other matches, Puerto Rico defeated the Dominican Republic in straight sets for third place in Group B and a quarter-final berth. In Group A, Trinidad and Tobago beat Costa Rica in three sets for third spot. The United States faced Mexico for top spot later Wednesday.

The second and third place teams in each group at the qualifying tournament for teams in North and Central America and the Caribbean crossover for Thursday's quarter-final. The semifinals are on Friday and the medal matches Saturday.

Volleyball (Photo: Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images)
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