Clash of the hemispheres

Canadian men’s team upsets Australians in exhibition volleyball game held in Bartlett gym

Former Gael Adam Simac visited his alma mater along with the Canadian men’s volleyball team to play Australia last week.
Former Gael Adam Simac visited his alma mater along with the Canadian men’s volleyball team to play Australia last week.
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Kingston volleyball fans were treated to a five-set thriller last week as 22nd-ranked Canada beat 14th-ranked Australia in an international men’s volleyball exhibition match.

A sweltering Bartlett Gym was packed with nearly 1,100 people last Tuesday in what was the venue’s last major sporting event. The new Queen’s Centre is set to open this fall.

Canada dropped the first set 25-21, but eventually prevailed 25-22, 25-12, 25-27 and 15-11 in the remaining ones.

The event marked a homecoming of sorts for Canada middle hitter Adam Simac, who played four years with the Gaels and led them to OUA championships in 2005 and 2006.

Simac has since spent time in Austria playing professionally and training with the national team, and said it was nice to be back playing in a familiar place.

“Once the game got going, I felt like I was at home,” he said.

The game was the second in a three-game exhibition series. Game one, which Australia won, was played in Ottawa.

“Last night playing in my hometown of Ottawa was unbelievable, and then to do it again tonight in a place where I spent four years was outstanding,” he said. “The fans here were great tonight.”

The six-foot-eight Simac said he’s proud of closing the doors to Bartlett Gym on a positive note.

“To be able to come back and play with Team Canada is icing on the cake.”

After Canada took a 13-11 lead in the fifth set, outside hitter Gavin Schmitt registered his team-leading 19th kill of the game. He brought the fans to their feet when his serve on the next point nipped the net and fell for a winning ace.

“He’s unbelievable...he’s a beast,” Simac said. “For him to finish off with the ace...you couldn’t have scripted it better.”

The six-foot-ten Schmitt, whose play seemed to be the highlight for the raucous Kingston crowd, was quick to deflect attention.

“Sometimes when you’re playing, and you get in a zone, it’s easy to play,” he said. “But the team made it easy by doing the right things at the right time to help me out.”

Schmitt led both teams in kills, and had several blocks at key times that electrified his team. Veteran Brock Davidiuk also had several key blocks, including one at 11-10 in the fifth set that propelled the team to victory.

Igor Yudin led Australia with 13 kills, while Paul Carroll had 12.

The national team used to be based in Winnipeg, but now plays out of Gatineau. With the new Queen’s Centre gym close to completion, head coach Glenn Hoag said he could see the team returning sooner than later.

“We’re going to be able to play closer places we can drive to,” he said. “We hope to promote volleyball through this. This is pretty good, this kind of crowd.”

Canada’s next step is next month’s world championship qualifying tournament in Cuba. Hoag said playing in a hot gym gave the team good practice for their trip south.

“We’re going to be stuck with more than this in Cuba,” he said. “This is good preparation.”

The team’s ultimate goal, though, is a return to the Olympics in London in 2012. The men’s volleyball team hasn’t qualified for the Summer Games since 1992.

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