Canada blows 2-set lead on way to 5th loss in women’s Volleyball Nations League

Canada remains winless against Poland in women’s volleyball after undoubtedly tasting victory on Sunday.

The Canadians appeared headed to their third consecutive victory in Volleyball Nations League action after taking the first two sets, but a resilient Polish side stormed back, winning three straight sets.

Canada was in control after impressive 25-22 and 25-21 victories, but Poland took over and won by scores of 25-21, 25-17 and 15-7 to improve to 6-0 against the Canadians in FIVB competition.

Poland, which increased its pressure from the service line as the match progressed, compiled eight aces to Canada’s five while also amassing 16 stuff blocks.

“We are right there with them. Keep your foot on the pedal,” Canada head coach Shannon Winzer told her players when trailing 7-5 in the final set.

But they couldn’t find an answer as Malwina Smarzek collected her 22nd of 23 points on the day, Canadian Kiera van Ryk was denied at the net and Poland pulled away with an ace to make it 10-5.

Canada, which sits 12th in the 16-team tournament with a 2-5 record in Rimini, Italy, returns to the court on Monday (, 7 a.m. ET). Eleventh-place Poland improved to 3-4.

Trailing 2-1 in sets, Poland exchanged points with Canada early in the fourth before going on an 8-3 run to snap an 8-8 tie.

Back-to-back kills

“Let’s keep grinding,” Winzer said in a huddle. “We’re not going to come back playing safe. We’re going to be aggressive.”

A Jennifer Cross block and wide shot by Poland cut its lead to 16-13 but the Canadian threat ended there with their opponent forcing a deciding set.

Leads of 9-5 and 6-3 in the opening two sets, respectively, paved the way for Canada early on. Outside hitter Hilary Howe came up with a huge block and ace to increase her team’s lead to 19-16 in first set.

Van Ryk, who topped both teams with 28 points on the day, broke a 6-6 tie in the second set with back-to-back kills and then tipped the ball for a 9-6 advantage after a 25-second rally. Later, van Ryk made it 16-10 with a pair of aces.

Canada held a slim 22-20 lead when outside hitter Andrea Mitrovic’s shot went long and made it a one-point advantage as Winzer called timeout.

The Canadians then reeled off three straight points to end the set on a missed serve by Poland, Cross ace and van Ryk block just seconds after she dove to keep a rally alive.