Team USA will play its neighbor to the North in semifinal volleyball action Friday at the NORCECA Continental Championship.
Canada advanced to play the Americans after defeating Trinidad & Tobago 27-25, 25-11, 25-22 in a quarterfinal match Thursday night at the Ralston Arena. The matchup between Team USA — which was idle Thursday — and Canada will begin at 8 p.m.
In the other semifinal at 6 p.m., the Dominican Republic will play Puerto Rico — a 25-16, 25-22, 25-19 quarterfinal winner against Mexico.
The first match Friday will be Cuba vs. Costa Rica at 4 p.m.
Canadian coach Arnd Ludwig said he was pleased by Thursday’s victory but added that his team has a big challenge awaiting Friday against the defending tournament champion.
“USA is one of the best teams in the world,” he said. “I think we need to just go out and have fun.”
Ludwig added that his team shouldn’t be feeling the heat against the U.S.
“There’s no pressure on us,” he said. “We just have to go out and play our game.”
Canada team captain Brittney Page said it was difficult not to peek past Thursday’s quarterfinal.
“It was tough not to look ahead,” she said. “USA has such a strong program and will obviously get great support for our match.”
Page, who played collegiately at Eastern Washington, said her team is eagerly awaiting Friday’s challenge.
“We’ll need to show a lot of grit and play our best,” she said. “We’ll be looking forward to it.”
Friday’s semifinal will be the first match between the U.S. and Canada since July 2012, when the Americans swept to victory in the pool opener of the Pan Am Cup.
Team USA coach Karch Kiraly, who was scouting the quarterfinal action Thursday night, said he wasn’t surprised by Canada’s strong tournament showing.
“I thought they had a good chance to reach the semifinals at the start of the tournament,” he said. “They’ve done a nice job.”
As a pool winner, the U.S. was able to enjoy a little down time. Kiraly said the players spent time with family and friends after a noon practice and reconvened later Thursday night to watch video of Canada’s win over Trinidad & Tobago.
“I feel good about the way we’re playing,” Kiraly said. “Everybody is making significant contributions, and that’s what we need to be successful.”
Cuba 3, St. Lucia 0
Cuba won its first match of the tournament by defeating St. Lucia 25-16, 25-15, 25-6. The Cubans were led by 13-year-old Melissa Vargas, the youngest player in the tournament. She scored 17 points in a combination of kills, aces and blocks.
Canada 3, Trinidad & Tobago 0
Tabitha Love was responsible for 11 points to lead Team Canada to a 27-25, 25-11, 25-22 victory. Ten players scored at least one point for the Canadians.
Puerto Rico 3, Mexico 0
Puerto Rico advanced to semifinal play with a 25-16, 25-22, 25-19 victory in the last quarterfinal. Former University of Florida All-American Aurea Cruz accounted for 15 points for Puerto Rico, which will play pool champion Dominican Republic on Friday.