San Juan, Argentina, June 3, 2018 - Ryan Sclater stood tall as Canada completed a perfect streak during week two of the Volleyball Nations League with a comfortable victory 3-1 (25-23, 25-22, 21-25, 25-21) over Iran.
Sclater smashed down 16 winners on offense and had the knack of saving his most telling contributions for vital stages of the game as Canada won their third straight to cap off an ideal week in San Juan.
Stephen Maar backed up Sclater with 13 total points as the Canadians bounced back from a surprising collapse in the third set to hold on for another vital victory, to give their chances as a VNL finals place a further boost.
Amir Ghafour battled bravely for Iran, snapping off 15 spike winners plus four blocking kills, and spearheaded his team’s third set revival. However, Canada dug deep when it counted and with Sclater a towering presence at the net, rode their new-found wave of confidence to another haul of all three points.
With Iran still nursing the disappointment of their defeat to Italy the previous day, Canada started strongly, with Sclater and Jason Derocco opening up a strong lead before their opponents could get into stride.
In what would become a theme, Ghafour led a revival to narrow the gap to 22-23, but Canada sealed the set following a hotly-disputed challenge and moved into the lead. The second set largely belonged to Maar, who was also outstanding in Saturday’s win over host nation Argentina.
After trailing 7-3, Canada reeled off a run of five straight points and never looked back, clinching a two-set advantage when Maar powered home a thundering winner on set point.
At that stage it seemed as if Canada’s ruthless consistency would take it to a routine straight sets win, especially when a 9-2 gap opened up in the third.
But then Iran coach Igor Kolakovic pleaded for a response for his players, begging them for a final effort.
He got one. Morteza Sharifi popped off the bench and delivered some stout serving and emotional intensity, while Farhad Ghaemi pulled things level with a pinpoint ace. Iran were suddenly fired up, and moved to set point when Sharifi hammered a spike off the head of Steven Marshall, before Ghafour held his nerve to close things out.
Canada was temporarily rattled, and had a nervous moment when Maar landed on the foot of Ghafour and appeared to have hurt his ankle. He battled on though, and Sclater picked up the slack.
Another lead was built by the North Americans in the fourth, with Sclater proving impossible to block and growing in confidence the longer things progressed.
One final winner secured the win and will give Canada some serious confidence heading into their home leg of the VNL next week, with the United States, Germany and Australia due to visit.
Iran will hope to get their campaign back on track with a trip to Russia, where they will meet the host nation, China and Brazil.