WORLD No. 1 Poland zoomed to second place following a gritty 25-21, 25-23, 27-25 sweep of Canada in the penultimate day of the Volleyball Nations League (VNL) men’s tournament Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

The Poles pulled everything they had though against the also-ran but determined Canadians in the three close sets to stay unbeaten in three matches in VNL’s Week 3 serving as the final leg here.

Poland, which will host the 8-team VNL finals in Gdansk City from July 19 to 24, jumped to 9-2 won-lost record and went pass the United States (8-2) in the team standings ahead of its final game at 7 p.m. against the top-ranked Japan (10-0) on Sunday.

Team USA absorbed a tough 18-25, 25-23, 25-23, 41-43, 12-15 defeat in a marathon battle against Argentina in the other pool games in Anaheim, California, also on Saturday to slightly stumble in the standings.

Perennial aces Wilfredo Leon Venero and 2021 VNL MVP Bartosz Kurek took a backseat in the non-bearing match but Poland still lured a bevy of heroes led by Kamil Semeniuk and Norbert Huber with 11 points apiece.

Lucasz Kaczmarek threw in 10 while Aleksander Sliwka and Karol Klos added eight and seven points, respectively, for Poland, which previously beat Slovenia and Brazil for a perfect run so far in the Philippine leg.

A Semeniuk hammer saved Poland from set point in the third frame before Huber aced back-to-back services for a thrilling 27-25 clincher much to the eruption of a sizeable Filipino crowd.

Poland also grinded out close wins in the first and second set, where Venero dropped two straight attacks to break a 23-all deadlock. Those were Venero’s few shining moments in the straight-set win led by his teammates after exploding for 22 in their big win over Brazil.

Canada, led by Samuel Cooper’s 19 points, slid to 2-9 for a tie with first-game loser China and Cuba at 14th to 16th place.

Canada and China will battle it out to avoid a cellar finish and notch a graceful exit in the first game at 11 a.m. on Sunday.
Brazil earlier wrapped up its campaign in style via 25-19, 25-17, 25-17 rout of China for an 8-4 card behind Felipe Moreira Roque’s 17 points on 12 hits, four blocks and an ace.

Brazil, the former Olympic and VNL champion, went 2-2 in the Philippine leg after losses against Italy and Poland. Its other win, a 3-0 wipeout of the Netherlands on Wednesday, assured its spot in the finals. (ai/mnm)