Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Schmitt Returns to Canadian Men's Volleyball Team for Nations League

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Schmitt Returns to Canadian Men's Volleyball Team for Nations League

Article excerpt

Schmitt makes return appearance for Canada


Gavin Schmitt doesn't want his return to the Canadian men's volleyball team to mess with its success.

The six-foot-10 outside hitter from Saskatoon, whose crushing kills and laser jump serves are feared internationally, retired after the 2016 Summer Olympics to preserve his beat-up body for his livelihood, which is the pro leagues.

But Canada has the need, and Schmitt the health and time, for him to play for the national team in Nations League starting Friday in Ottawa.

Ranked sixth in the world, Canada opens against No. 16 Australia followed by No. 10 Germany on Saturday and No. 2 United States on Sunday.

Nations League, formerly World League, is an annual six-week tournament featuring the world's top 16 teams.

Prize money that includes US$1 million to the winner and the chance to move up the world rankings are the stakes. Canada beat the U.S. to win its first medal -- a bronze -- in the marathon tournament in 2017.

Canada is 4-2 in Nations League this year and riding a three-match win streak into Ottawa.

Schmitt, 32, hasn't played for Canada since a straight-sets quarter-final loss to Russia at the Olympic Games in Rio. He's pragmatic about what he'll contribute in Ottawa.

"They're in a good place right now and I don't want to derail anything," Schmitt told The Canadian Press from Ottawa.

"I had my first practice with the A team yesterday. My goal is to try to come and get integrated with the guys and offer whatever it is I'm at a level to offer."

Canada has some injuries and Schmitt's pro team -- Japan's Toray Arrows -- was done its season in March. He hasn't played since then because of ankle surgery and subsequent recovery.

When Schmitt retired from the Canadian team, he left the door open for a return should his body and time allow. He'd had surgery on his legs for stress fractures in both 2013 and 2016.

"I always kind of thought he would be back," Canadian middle blocker Graham Vigrass said. "His plan was to continue playing pro and I knew if his body felt good enough that he would be back with the national team."

Canadian head coach Stephane Antiga said it was too soon to say how much Schmitt might play in Ottawa after just one practice. …

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