Canada loses Pan Am Games men's volleyball semifinal to Argentina

TORONTO — The chance to make Pan American Games history having slipped from their grasp, the Canadian men's volleyball team will play for the bronze medal on Sunday.

Argentina beat the host team three sets to one (28-26, 20-25, 25-21, 25-23) in Friday evening's semifinal to book a berth in Sunday's gold-medal game.

They'll face Brazil, who beat Puerto Rico in three straight sets in the late semifinal. Canada meets Puerto Rico for bronze Sunday.

Canada has never played for Pan Am gold in men's volleyball. The country's best result was a bronze in 1999 in Winnipeg.

"There's still a medal to try and win," Saskatoon outside hitter Gavin Schmitt said. "We've got to focus on that and try and get something done."

The host team led deep into the first and fourth sets to 22 and 20 points respectively Friday, but couldn't close out against Argentina.

Losing the first set stung as Canada at one point led 16-11 in front of full stands of 5,000 at Direct Energy Centre.

"We were up big. There's no way we should have lost that set and gave them a gift like that," Schmitt said. "That's not acceptable against a team like that. They'll take that and use that against you."

Argentina ranks sixth in the world and Canada is No. 14. The Argentines brought an 'A' lineup to Toronto and a deeper team than the one Canada split a pair of World League matches with in Halifax in June.

The countries were statistically similar Friday except in blocking. Argentina was the better blocking team with 10 for points to Canada's four.

Schmitt led Canada with 25 points and teammate Gordon Perrin of Creston, B.C., had 16. Argentina's Facundo Conte and Jose Luis Gonzalez combined for 37 points.

Perrin, 25, was livid about Canada's inability to finish in the first and fourth sets.

"We're better than that team," he said. "We just choked at the end."

Canada won a marathon five sets against the United States to conclude the preliminary round 3-0 on Tuesday and gain a bye to the semifinal.

The Canadian men's basketball team beat the U.S. in overtime Friday to advance to the gold-medal game. The volleyball team was devastated not to have the same opportunity. Their challenge is to motivate themselves for bronze.

"I won't lie. It's not going to be easy," said libero Dan Lewis of Oakville, Ont. "It's going to be a bit of a mental struggle tonight as guys are still going to be very angry. It's going to be difficult to sleep.

"We've got to just realize that this whole city and this whole country right now was behind us and we can't let them down. We're going to have to do it for them. We're going to have to dig deep. If you can't motivate yourself, don't come on the court."

The Canadian Press