NINGBO, China – Canada’s hopes of qualifying for a spot in women’s volleyball at the 2024 Paris Olympics suffered a major blow when powerhouse Serbia showed its strength in an Olympic qualifying tournament on Monday night.

Serbia defeated Canada 25-19, 25-17, 25-21.

“Serbia is number three in the world for a reason and they are an incredibly physical team, but I don’t think we had our best performance today,” Canadian coach Shannon Winzer said.

“Our blocking and defense were disjointed and I think at times we played within ourselves instead of the aggressive, competitive team you’ve become accustomed to seeing,” Winzer said.

Serbia dominated in their attack (45-32) and service points (8-1) and had an advantage over Canada in blocking points (9-7). Serbia lost four more points due to errors than Canada.

Serbia’s Tijana Boskovic led the scoring with 25 points, including four aces. Serbia held off Canada’s typically effective attackers, with Alexa Gray, Kiera Van Ryk and Hilary Howe each scoring just nine points on Monday.

Serbia is 3-0 in Group A of the tournament, while Canada is 1-2. Canada plays China on Wednesday. The two best teams in each group qualify for the Paris Games.

“We’re facing China, another great team, and we have to find confidence again in our style of play and the things we know we can do well,” Winzer said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 18, 2023.